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What Is A Social Security Disability Hearing Like?

Apr 10, 2008
Compared to other legal proceedings, Social Security Disability hearings are considered much less formal. They are nothing like what you might see on a TV court show (thank goodness). That said, these hearings are serious business especially when you consider what is at stake, a person's Social Security Disability benefits.

The hearing is conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (also called an "ALJ"). Also present in the hearing room will be the judge's hearing assistant, any experts the judge has asked to be present, you and, of course, your Social Security Disability attorney. Sometimes your disability attorney will call additional family members or even friends as witnesses if we think it is necessary, but this is rare. As for experts, usually the judge will have a vocational expert (an expert in different types of jobs and what physical abilities they require), and often a medical expert to provide further testimony.

Before the Social Security hearing, your disability attorney will likely have submitted your updated medical records and any opinion evidence he has developed on your behalf. Sometimes this is not possible and your disability attorney will talk to the ALJ about what medical evidence is outstanding. Also, before the hearing, your attorney will have met with you and described the way the hearing will unfold, the nature of the questions you will be asked, and what we are trying to prove.

As the hearing begins, it is customary for the lawyer and ALJ to hold a discussion about the nature of the case and any procedural issues that need to be addressed. These discussions often include a lot of Social Security or legal mumbo jumbo that may seem unclear. Don't worry. Your Social Security Disability attorney will have explained these issues in common sense terms ahead of time.

At this point either the ALJ or your disability attorney may swear you in and begin asking you questions. While there are certainly exceptions (I'm sorry to say), most ALJs are very fair and will hear your case with an open mind. They are not trying to trick you or put words in your mouth. You should answer each question truthfully to the best of your ability keeping in mind the "theme" of your case as your lawyer has developed it.

After you testify, the ALJ will call on the vocational and medical experts to testify. If your SSDI attorney is experienced, he will have a good idea what they will be asked and how to cross examine them. Following this, depending on the how the case has come together and the particular ALJ, your disability attorney may give a closing argument.

In most cases, the ALJ does not announce his decision at the end of the hearing. Again, if your SSI Disability attorney has enough experience, he will have a good idea as to how the ALJ will rule. The written decision should be issued from 2-6 weeks after the hearing. If all went well, your back benefits should be received from 2-12 weeks after that date. A final point about benefits, ensure you attorney double checks the calculation. You want to be assured you are receiving the full benefits you are entitled to!
About the Author
Matt Berry is a Social Security Disability attorney and disability consumer advocate. As a SSDI attorney and SSI Disability attorney he helps consumers receive disability benefits.
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