When Will I Get My Decision?
As experienced Social Security Disability attorneys in Nevada, we are often asked this question. A lot of claimants believe that they will attend the hearing, the judge will listen to their testimony and give a ruling right then and there. While this is true in a very small minority of the cases, the majority of the time, judges do not give any indication as to whether the case is going to be approved or denied at the conclusion of the hearing. There are generally three different scenarios of what could happen after the hearing:
1) The Case Does Not Need Additional Development
In cases where all of the medical records were received and submitted prior to the Social Security Disability (SSD) hearing, the record will close at the conclusion of the hearing and the judge will make his or her decision based on that evidence alone. Judges will generally review the medical records and other documents in the Social Security Administration (SSA) file as well as review the testimony and make a decision. Normally it takes at least 1-2 months before a decision is made, and then additional time for it to be written and mailed to the claimant.
2) There Are Outstanding Medical Record Requests
In some cases, for a myriad of reasons, all of the relevant medical evidence could not be obtained and submitted prior to the hearing. Depending on the judge, this will not be a problem. A lot of judges will allow for additional time after the hearing to submit additional evidence. In this case, judges will hold the record open for a specified number of days to allow the claimant to obtain and submit those records. At the conclusion of that specified number of days, the record will close and the judge will review any new evidence submitted as well as the existing evidence and the claimant’s testimony at the hearing.
If additional time is needed to submit evidence after the hearing, the decision will obviously be delayed by that amount of time. This means that if your attorney is given 30 days to submit additional evidence that will delay the usual 1-2 month wait time for a decision by an additional 30 days. However, should the evidence be obtained early, a simple letter can be sent to the judge to notify him that the evidence is complete and the record can be closed. This could speed up the process just a bit.
3) The Judge States That The Claimant Will Be Sent for a Consultative Examination
In some cases, judges want additional objective evidence concerning the claimant’s current condition. This can be for any number of reasons; the judge believes there is not enough evidence in the file to make a decision, the evidence in the file is wildly inconsistent and the judge wants a current assessment, or the judge believes that the records received do not explain the claimant’s presentation at the hearing. In these cases, the judge will order that the claimant attend a consultative examination at SSA’s expense.
The judge does not have to inform the claimant at the hearing that he intends to order a consultative examination. The only notice required is by mail and includes only a date, time and place to appear. This appointment is mandatory and SSA provides transportation to and from this appointment. There is no good reason other than being hospitalized why a claimant should not attend and cooperate with a consultative examination ordered by a judge. It is very likely that your claim will be denied if you fail to go to this appointment.
After the examination, the examining doctor will write a report which is sent to both the judge and the claimant/attorney. The claimant and their Social Security Disability attorney then have a specified number of days to either object, submit additional evidence or respond in writing to this report. This is often a good chance to have the last word in your case. Not only is it wise to respond to these reports by showing how it supports your claim for disability, but it also provides an excellent opportunity to make a closing argument after you have all of the information from the hearing, additional records and the latest consultative examination. These responses can prove to be very persuasive.
If you are sent out for a consultative examination after the hearing, it will generally delay your decision by at least a couple of months. The reason for this is that the appointment must be scheduled with the doctor, the report must be written, mailed to the judge, who mails it to the claimant, then the claimant/attorney has at least 10 days to respond in writing, and then the record is closed. Again, following all of this it is likely still going to be another 1-2 months before you get a decision.
Preventing a Long Wait
At Shook & Stone, our dedicated Social Security Disability lawyers in Las Vegas understand that it is discouraging to know that your decision could be delayed for such a long time, however, it is important to remember that it is always better to give the judge additional information which could help your claim rather than get an unfavorable decision without further development.