Preparing for a disability cessation hearing

Torso and hands of a person holding a large stack of manila folders

We often get calls from people seeking assistance preparing for a disability cessation hearing. This is when the government has made a preliminary decision that you no longer qualify for disability benefits. This can be a scary time for people living with serious health issues and unfortunately these are often cases that attorneys do not have capacity to take on. For this reason, many folks have to prepare for a cessation hearing on their own. Following are our top tips on some things you might consider doing to prepare for a disability cessation hearing.

Appeal the cessation by going to your local field office and requesting the proper appeal forms

  • You must appeal within 10 days in order to continue receiving benefits during appeal period (will have to repay if you ultimately lose benefits)
  • You must appeal within 60 days if you do not want to continue to receive benefits during the appeal period
  • For the “reason you are appealing” you can state: I continue to meet criteria for disability and am unable to work any full-time job due to my severe impairments
  • For the “I am submitting the following additional information” you can state more evidence from [provider/facility name] will be provided in advance of the disability hearing. You do not have to provide all new evidence at the time you submit the appeal.
  • We suggest you request an informal hearing with a disability officer using form 789 (check block #1)
  • You will also likely be asked to fill out form 795
  • You may also be asked to fill out form 3441
  • Ask for some type of receipt documenting that the appeal has been filed

Collect evidence about your disabilities and provide it to Disability Determination Services

  • Once your appeal has been processed, the field office will transfer the file to Disability Determination Services (DDS) in Salem.
  • Request a copy of your medical record from Disability Determination Services (DDS) by calling (800) 452-2174
  • Request a copy of your full “electronic file” which contains all medical evidence and non-medical records from Social Security
  • Ask for how to get evidence to the disability hearings officer in advance of your hearing
  • Review the “Disability Determination Explanation” in your electronic file
  • Review the medical records that were reviewed by the government, and note the date ranges on those records
  • Request all medical records that DDS did not consider between the date of your initial approval and the present
  • You will need to request the full records from each individual facility and/or provider
  • Do not provide after-visit summaries – you want to provide the full chart notes with labs and imaging
  • Consider obtaining a medical source statement (or multiple statements) in which you ask your doctors to provide an opinion that specifically addresses the functional limitations that you would have in full-time easy work and why.  For example perhaps you might need more than double the average rest breaks, you might need to rest at-will during the day, you may require low-stress employment or you might call in sick in excess of 2 workdays per month. These are important items to have your doctor address. Ask your doctor to cite to any objective evidence that supports their conclusion. If your doctor provides a letter that simply says “This patient is disabled and cannot work” it is unlikely to contain the specific limitations that will be most helpful to you.
  • Get all evidence to the hearings officer well in advance of your scheduled hearing date

Attend the scheduled in-person disability hearing

  • You will receive at least 20-day notice for an in-person hearing with a disability hearings officer. See rule 2(f).
  • You may want to bring a support person with you such as a close relative or friend. 
  • Be prepared to truthfully answer the following important questions:
  • Highest grade of education?
  • Have you had any vocational training?
  • Have you done any work for pay or profit since you were initially found to be disabled?
  • Have you accepted unemployment since onset date?
  • Have you been looking for work since onset date?
  • Why do you feel you aren’t able to work?
  • How are you limited by each of your severe impairments?
  • Do you take medications?
  • Are your medications effective?
  • Do you regularly see medical providers?
  • What have they told you about your conditions?
  • Do you drink alcohol? How much? 
  • Do use any street drugs, including marijuana?
  • Are you able to manage your own finances?
  • How do you spend your day?
  • Are you able to cook? Perform household chores? Shop for groceries?

If you receive a denial after the cessation hearing, be sure to pay close attention to the appeal window in which you can appeal this decision.