What Should I Expect At My Social Security Disability Hearing?
Many Social Security Disability applicants will wait up to a year or longer for their chance to present their Social Security Disability claim to an Administrative Law Judge. All Social Security Disability denials up to this point were done by a state medical examiner who did not have the opportunity to speak with you, discuss your Social Security Disability claim with a vocational expert or hear evidence presented by your Social Security Disability lawyer.
The Social Security Disability hearing will give you an opportunity to present your Social Security Disability case in a face to face meeting with an Administrative Law Judge who is free to review all of your medical information with out prejudice or regard to other decisions made by a state medical examiner.
Most Social Security Disability hearings will be held in a small room in a court house near your residence. The Social Security Disability hearings are not open to the public, and there will not be a contentious argument between a prosecutor and defensive attorney, in fact, the state does not even have an attorney present. In most Social Security Disability Hearings there will be a calm, open discussion between all the participants. The participants will include the Administrative Law Judge, your Social Security Disability lawyer, a vocational expert and a judicial assistant who will record the hearing.
Other medical expert witnesses (psychiatrists, internists, cardiologists, orthopedists) may be requested by the Administrative Law Judge. Their purpose is to help the Administrative Law Judge understand medical aspects of your Social Security Disability case. Medical experts may be requested for Social Security Disability cases where the Social Security Disability claimant has multiple physical and mental impairments or if their medical documentation is difficult to understand or contains contradicting information.
The vocational expert is present to identify and classify the type of work you have done in the past (skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled) and if your mental or physical health condition is too severe to allow for employment in your past profession. If the vocational expert determines you cannot perform your current job, he may be able to identify additional jobs you could be retrained to perform- given your skill sets, educational level, age and job experience. The vocational experts commonly refer to the Directory of Occupational Titles to identify the requirements a person must have to engage in any job available with in the United States. If you have hired a Social Security Disability attorney, they will be able to cross examine the medical examiner and/or the vocational expert in an effort to discredit or clarify their testimony.
Many Social Security Disability claimants find the Social Security Disability hearing stressful and will become very emotional or nervous. This is normal, but if you have a good Social Security Disability attorney they will be able to prepare you for what to expect. In most hearings, the Administrative Law Judge will ask very basic background questions: address, birth date, school background and your name. They will also ask questions about your past work experience and job responsibilities: physical and mental job requirements including your ability to stand, sit, push, pull and lift. The Administrative Law Judge will also ask specific information concerning your mental and physical health condition and any limitations you now face in daily house hold activities. The judge will use this information to determine if you are able to perform your past job or any other type of job. The most important thing to remember while testifying is to be specific, tell the truth, be descriptive and have a positive attitude.
Each Administrative Law Judge has his or her own personal style regarding testimony and questioning. Certain Administrative Law Judges will ask all of the questions themselves, while others will expect your Social Security Disability attorney to ask you all relevant questions regarding your background, medical information and job responsibilities. At the end of all of your testimony the expert witnesses (Vocational and Medical) may present their evidence and your Social Security Disability lawyer will have the chance to contradict or clarify their expert testimony.
At the end of the Social Security Disability hearing the Administrative Law Judge will hear final comments. You and your Social Security Disability attorney may be asked for closing comments. Most Social Security benefit decisions will be made by written notice four to six weeks after the administrative hearing. In a few instances, the Administrative Law Judge may present the decision at the close of the hearing, but this will be the exception.