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Want to Win? Show Up! Insight from Nash Attorney Dan Rosen

November 13, 2017

Comedian/Director Woody Allen famously said that “Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up.” When you are fighting for the Social Security disability benefits you have rightfully earned, I would adjust that percentage.  You won’t win by just showing up.  But if you don’t show up, your chance of winning plummets.

About two out of three initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are turned down, and almost 90% are denied on reconsideration. Most disabled workers are awarded benefits only after a hearing in front of a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). From time-to-time, the attorneys in our firm are asked by clients, “Do I need to show up for my hearing?” The short answer is an emphatic, “Yes”. The hearing is your best opportunity to tell your story — for you to be heard. As a disability attorney, I want the ALJ to be able to hear about your disability from you, and how it affects your daily life. Here’s another reason to show up: the current average wait time for a disability hearing in Illinois is more than 18 months. After waiting that long for your case to be resolved, why wouldn’t you want to be there?

If you miss your hearing, you are totally at the mercy of the ALJ, who has two options.  First, he or she can issue a “Notice to Show Cause.” In that case, the judge issues a letter to you, requiring a good reason that you did not show up to your hearing.  A good reason may be that you were in the hospital, or immediate family member died.  A good reason is not that you overslept or that your ride didn’t show up.  If you don’t have a good reason, the judge can dismiss (throw out) your case!  If your case is dismissed, you will have to start the disability application process all over again and wait another year or two for a new hearing.  And that’s if you’re eligible to file again – not everyone is.  The second option is that the judge can decide that you waived your right to appear – and decide the case without you, with a hearing or without one.  In that case, the judge will assess your situation without hearing from you about why you are unable to work.

You can avoid having your case dismissed with just a little planning. You will be notified of your hearing date, time, and location at least 75 days in advance. It is a good idea to start preparing right away:

  • Reschedule any other appointments (like a doctor’s appointment) which may fall on that day.
  • Arrange reliable transportation.
    • If you are dependent on other people for your transportation, have a backup plan or, even better, two backup plans.
    • If you are depending on public transportation, remember that the CTA and Metra regularly run behind schedule. Plan on allowing at least one hour of extra travel time.
  • If you are not familiar with the location of the hearing, make a “dry run” well in advance of your hearing. This will give you an idea of how much time to allow getting there and it will greatly reduce your stress on the hearing date.
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before your hearing, and don’t forget to set your alarm (maybe even two alarms).

In a worst case situation, if you think you are going to miss your hearing, notify your attorney as soon as possible. As I often say to my clients: “Lawyers are not magicians.” We need your active involvement. By communicating and working as a team, we have the very best opportunity to win. It is our passion at Nash Disability Law to help disabled people get the benefits they deserve. If you are considering applying for Social Security disability or your initial application for benefits has been turned down, call us for a free evaluation of your situation.