What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing
Your Social Security Disability claim was denied and now, after waiting over a year, you are getting ready to have a hearing in front of a judge. What will the court room look like? Who is going to be there? What is going to happen?
Your initial claim for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was evaluated by a government employee who you did not meet with face to face and whose evaluation of your case was based on your medical records only. At your hearing, you will be given the opportunity to tell your story to an experienced judge. The judge will listen to your testimony and give you a fair chance at presenting your case.
What will the court room look like?
The hearing room in a Social Security case is much different than the traditional court rooms that you might have seen live or on TV. Your hearing will be held around a conference table. You will most likely be asked to sit in a specific seat across from the judge. Most people find that this small, informal setting helps them to relax and establish a dialog with the judge.
Who is going to be there?
Social Security hearings are not open to the public. The only people in your hearing will be the judge, a hearing assistant, you, your lawyer and possibly one or more expert witnesses. The hearing assistant will be recording the hearing on some type of audio recorder. The expert witnesses are there to help the judge to better understand the issues in your case. Expert witnesses are not there to help you or to hurt you. Expert witnesses come from a panel of experts selected by Social Security and may include a Vocational Expert who can describe the skill and exertion required for your line of work and/or a Medical Expert who can help the judge understand your disability.
What is going to happen?
The judge will introduce himself/herself along with the hearing assistant and the vocational and/or medical expert witnesses. He will then ask your attorney to state his/her name. The judge will then read a very brief statement setting out the issues to be heard. Your attorney will be allowed to introduce any new or updated copies of your medical records. Next, the judge will swear you in. The judge might ask your lawyer for an opening statement. The judge and or your attorney will then ask you questions and hear your testimony. After your testimony, the expert witnesses will also be asked questions by the judge and your attorney. The judge will not usually make a decision at the end of the hearing. You will get a written decision in about 4 weeks or longer.