It's been a long time since I was directly invovled with appeals but I was successful back in the day! One of the big changes I made in our process was requesting a telephone hearing at that second appeal level, instead of sending in the documentation again with an explanation letter. Talking directly with the hearing officer was a big benefit, and I was luck enough to get the same officer almost every time! We developed a very good working relationship and was able to share learned information that helped both of us. (He understood where I was coming from, and I understood some of the "why" a little better). I did request and participate in an A L J hearing. I believe this was by telephone also but I can't remember for sure as it has been a long time ago. It was tougher than the hearings I was familiar with, and I think at least one outcome was positive, but I cannot remember this for sure.
Sorry I can't be more helpful. I do recommend moving ahead if you believe in your documentation.
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