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Social Security Disability Hearings What You Can Expect

Social Security Disability hearings are an important part of the disability claim process. Although many claims make it to the hearing stage, it is important to know what happens before the hearing and why so many cases are scheduled for a hearing.

What Happens in Order to Get to a Hearing?

When you apply for disability, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will review your medical records, your work history and information about your background. After reviewing this evidence, the SSA will make an initial decision either approving or denying you for disability. Typically, the only cases that are approved immediately are for people who have extremely severe medical conditions like terminal illnesses.

Because the vast majority of people filing for disability have their claims denied initially, an appeal is necessary to have a chance of being approved for disability benefits. Once a claim has been denied at the Initial stage, you will need to appeal and request Reconsideration of your evidence. At the Reconsideration stage, the SSA will conduct the same review as was done in the Initial stage but the file will be reviewed by a different Disability Examiner.

The Disability Examiners have the same procedures for reviewing disability claims and therefore, people who are denied at the Initial stage are likely to be denied at the Reconsideration stage. Appeals after Reconsideration go to the Hearing stage.

What’s Different About a Hearing?

At this stage, the claim is no longer reviewed by Disability Examiners; your claim is presented to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).

Appealing to the ALJ Hearing stage is generally the best place to fully present your disability claim. Statistically, you are more likely to be successful at the hearing than at the Initial and Reconsideration stages. You are also more likely to be successful at the hearing than at the Appeals Council and Federal District court, the two appeals stages after the hearing. To try to have a successful hearing, you’ll need to know what to expect and how to best prepare for the hearing.

Preparing for a Hearing

Once your hearing is scheduled, you’ll want to make sure that all of your medical records have been submitted to the SSA. For the judge to have a clear picture of your medical conditions and how they limit you, the judge will need to have all of your evidence. If you would like to ensure that all records have been submitted and if you have any additional evidence, like witness statements or witnesses that would like to attend the hearing on your behalf, you should speak with your attorney to prepare for the hearing date. It is important to ensure that all evidence and statements are prepared because the hearing itself is informal and quick.

Not a Day in Court, an Hour in a Hearing Office

ALJ hearings are informal hearings and therefore, the hearing will not be a trial that occurs in a courtroom. Once you receive your Notice of Hearing from the SSA, you will notice that the ALJ hearing occurs in the SSA’s Office of Hearing Operations (OHO). The SSA has numerous OHO locations and your hearing will be scheduled at the OHO nearest to your home.

The hearing occurs in a hearing room with you, your attorney, any witnesses you have, the judge, a Vocational Expert (VE), and a court reporter. The judge and VE may attend the hearing in person, by webcam or telephone. ALJ hearings typically take less than an hour.

What Happens During the Hearing?

The hearing starts with a swearing in and documentation of everyone participating in the hearing. The judge generally begins the hearing by reading a brief statement about your claim and then begins asking you about your background, your work history and your medical conditions and how they limit you.

Some judges ask the bulk of the questions and then ask your attorney to follow-up and some judges prefer that your attorney do most of the questioning and then the judge follows up. After testimony is complete, the judge will want to question the VE.

The Role of the Vocational Expert

The VE attends the hearing to give the judge their expert opinion on jobs available in the national economy and what jobs a person is capable of doing, despite limitations. The VE’s opinion is important because the judge’s decision will reflect the VE’s opinion of the work available and what type of a work a person with limitations similar to yours can do.

If your attorney deems it necessary, he or she may question the VE about their opinion. Remember, the goal of the hearing is to show the judge that the limitations you have prevent you from performing your past work and any other work. The VE is supposed to be an impartial witness who responds to hypothetical questions from the judge about what work can be performed by individuals with specific limitations.

The Decision, and More Waiting

Once the VE gives his or her opinion, the judge may ask you and your witnesses if you have anything else to say. At that point, you can tell the judge about any other ways in which your background, your medical conditions or your limitations stop you from working. However, do not be concerned if the judge doesn’t ask if you have something to add. The judge may have enough evidence through medical records, doctors’ statements, your testimony, and the VE’s testimony to render a decision.

After your hearing is complete, the judge will start working on making a decision in your claim. You will not get a decision on your case that day. Usually, you can expect to get a written decision from the ALJ within one to two months.

For more information on SSA Hearings, visit their website: https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/hearing_process.html

Your Social Security Disability Claim May Be Denied – Don’t Go Through Hearing Stage Alone!

An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help you prepare you and your case for your moment before the Administrative Law Judge. This is the stage where you’re most likely to be approved, so having an advisor and advocate on your side for the hearing makes sense. If you or someone you know is filing for SSD, or has filed and been denied, call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation, or simple contact us online.

Contact Information

Asheville Law Office

300 Ridgefield Court Suite 309
Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: 828-552-8215
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

301 S McDowell St, Suite 900
Charlotte, NC 28204
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

2915 Raeford Road, Suite 204
Fayetteville, NC 28303
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

1308 Wayne Memorial Drive, Suite B
Goldsboro, NC 27534
Phone: 919-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greenville Law Office

702 Cromwell Dr. Suite G
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Morganton Law Office

216 N. Sterling Street, Suite B
Morganton, NC 28655
Phone: 828-219-3080
Toll Free: 1-844-520-2894

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Raleigh Law Office

4325 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-834-1184
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Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
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Rocky Mount Law Office

144 Woodridge Court
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078