SSDI Hearings in Florida
Understanding the SSDI Hearing Process
If your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim is denied, you may file a formal Request for Reconsideration. If this, too, is denied, you may file a Request for Hearing to further appeal the decision. The SSDI hearings process in Florida can be complicated, and there are many things you must do to prepare and better your chance of a successful outcome. It’s best to work with an experienced Social Security disability attorney who can help you get ready for your hearing and advocate for your best interests.
The first issue to be addressed at any SSDI hearing is whether you meet the proper Social Security Act requirements to be eligible for benefits.
Generally, you must have worked for five of the past ten years to be eligible for SSDI benefits. The SSA calls the last date you are eligible for benefits your “Date Last Insured.” To be entitled to benefits, you must prove to the Administrative Law Judge that you were disabled before your Date Last Insured.
After the eligibility issue is addressed, the ALJ will begin an established five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether you are disabled. If it is determined that you are not disabled at any step of the process, the evaluation will not go on to the next step.
The ALJ must determine whether you are engaging in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA), which is defined as work activity that involves doing significant physical or mental activities. If you have engaged in SGA, you will not be found disabled regardless of how severe your physical or mental impairments are and regardless of your age, education, and work experience. If you are not engaging in SGA, the analysis proceeds to the next step.
The ALJ must determine whether you have a medically determinable impairment that is “severe.” An impairment is considered “severe” if it significantly limits your ability to perform basic work activities. An impairment is “not severe” when medical and other evidence establishes only a slight abnormality that would have no more than a minimal effect on your ability to work. If the ALJ determines you have a severe impairment, the analysis proceeds to the next step.
The ALJ must determine whether your impairment is of such severity as to meet, or medically equal, an Adult Listing of Impairments. If your impairment, or combination of impairments, is of such severity as to meet a listing, you will be found disabled and the sequential evaluation process will stop. Even if you do not meet a listing, the analysis will go on to steps four and five for vocational consideration.
Before considering step four, the ALJ will make a determination on your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). Your RFC is your ability to do physical and mental work activities on a sustained basis despite limitations from your impairments. In making this finding, the ALJ will consider all of your impairments, including those that are not severe. This is based on your testimony, but also takes into consideration any limitations assigned by your treating physicians, as well as any documentation in the medical records regarding your ability to do work-related activities. This information will be combined with your age, education, and work history to make a determination at steps four and five.
The ALJ will determine whether you have the RFC to perform the requirements of your past relevant work. Past relevant work means work performed in the past 15 years, either as you performed it or as it is performed in the national economy. If the ALJ finds that you can perform your past relevant work, you will be found not disabled. If you cannot perform your past relevant work, the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step.
Before considering step five, the ALJ will seek guidance from the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (GRIDS) to determine whether you can perform any other work based on your age, education, and work history. If the GRIDs so direct, the ALJ will most likely stop the evaluation process at this point and find you to be disabled. Even if the GRIDs recommend a finding of “not disabled,” the ALJ will proceed to the fifth step.
The ALJ will determine whether you are able to do any other work in the regional or national economy given your residual functional capacity, age, education, and past relevant work. Although you continue to have the overall burden of proving disability, the ALJ is responsible at this step for providing evidence that demonstrates other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that you can perform. To meet this responsibility, the ALJ will most likely call a vocational expert to testify about what work is available in the national economy and whether you would be capable of performing that work given your residual functional capacity, age, education, and past relevant work. If the ALJ finds that you can perform other work, you will be found not disabled. If the ALJ finds that you cannot perform other work, you will be found disabled at this fifth and final step.
Contact Michles & Booth Today
If you need assistance with your Social Security disability hearing in Florida, reach out to the experienced SSD lawyers at Michles & Booth. With offices located in Pensacola, Crestview, Fort Walton Beach, and Tampa, we proudly provide dedicated legal representation for clients across the state. We can answer your questions and address any concerns you may have.
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