Administrative law judges (ALJs) preside over administrative hearings to resolve conflicts between government agencies and those who are affected by those agencies’ actions. They work for a variety of government agencies, including the Coast Guard, the FAA, and the Social Security Administration, to mention a few. Your case will be considered by an administrative law judge if your first application for Social Security disability payments is denied and your reconsideration request is also denied.
ALJs, like trial judges, can administer oaths, rule on evidence issues, hear testimony, and issue decisions. They are the United States’ only merit-based judges. ALJs are appointed rather than elected, after passing a difficult written exam and an oral examination before an examination panel that includes an American Bar Association representative and an active administrative law judge. ALJs are members of the executive branch, not the judicial branch, of the government. They are fully apart from the government entities whose cases they hear. They are immune from punishment for their activities as judges, and they are not subject to performance evaluations or bonuses. To be fired, a valid reason has to be presented.
If your Social Security disability case is heard by an administrative law judge, you can rest confident that he or she is qualified to hear your case and will act as an impartial third party. The ALJ will evaluate your cumulative file and rely on the facts contained within, as well as the testimony of medical and vocational experts who attend the hearing at the ALJ’s request and are paid for their services. ALJs also give you the opportunity to offer fresh evidence during the hearing. This can help you by strengthening your claim or contradicting previous Social Security disability examiner conclusions.
Because Social Security Disability hearings are similar to trials, with evidence presented and witnesses called to testify, it is prudent to retain the services of a qualified Social Security disability lawyer, or at the very least a qualified Social Security disability professional, at this stage of your disability case. According to statistics, having legal representation at your hearing increases your chances of getting your Social Security disability claim approved.