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Is there recourse if I feel my SSDI case was treated unfairly?

This blog has previously discussed the basics of appealing a denial of Social Security Disability Insurance benefits by the Social Security Administration. Most recently on this subject, we touched on the fact that it can take some time for a case in New Jersey to be scheduled for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ.) So, after waiting all this time, what happens when one appears at the hearing and feels he or she has not been treated fairly?

It should be remembered that most ALJs take their jobs very seriously, are handling many cases and are attempting to sift through the evidence they have to the best of their abilities. It is important to remember that just the fact that the decision has gone against one does not mean there has been unfair treatment. There should be some evidence that something was amiss, either through the words the ALJ used, the evidence he or she allowed to be presented or the weight he or she gave to certain evidence. If this indicates potential problems with the neutrality of the arbiter, what can an applicant do?

One can appeal the decision of the ALJ to a higher federal authority. While beyond the scope of this post, this action has its own very specific pleading and time requirements that need to be addressed by anyone filing to appeal. According to SSA, however, there is also a mechanism for filing a complaint about an alleged unfair SSDI hearing. This complaint must be in writing, and should contain certain information, such as the applicant's basic information, what party treated the person unfairly, when and why the applicant felt this way and the information of anyone else who may have witnessed the unfair treatment. It needs to be sent to the appropriate address in the SSA's publication within 180 days of the time the unfair treatment was discovered. Again, it is important to distinguish between a legal error in denial of one's case, and a complaint about unfair treatment or misconduct on the part of an ALJ or other SSA official. For help with determining what these differences are, people with a disability may want to consider speaking with a New Jersey disability attorney.

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