Preparing for Your Social Security Disability Hearing: At the Hearing

You are ready to go before the Judge for your Social Security Disability Hearing, but what should you expect?  Below are some common questions about the hearing.

1. Who will be deciding my claim?

At your Social Security Disability Hearing you will be presenting your case to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ has been appointed by Social Security to decide Social Security Disability claims. The ALJ is an independent and impartial expert trained in Social Security Disability law. The ALJ and the ALJ’s staff have thoroughly reviewed your medical records before the hearing and now want to hear from you, in your words, how your impairments affect you day to day.

2. How long will the hearing last?

The hearing generally takes 25 minutes to an hour.

3. Who will be present at the hearing?

Present at the hearing will be the ALJ, the ALJ’s clerk, a vocational expert (in most, but not all hearings), a medical expert (only in some hearings), you, and, if you choose, an attorney or representative.

4. Will there be a jury and/or audience?

No, the hearing is private and confidential. No one is allowed into the room without your permission.

5. What is going to happen at the hearing?

All ALJs like to do things differently, but generally, you and any experts testifying will be placed under oath. The ALJ will then begin asking you questions about your daily activities, conditions and limitations. Hearings are fairly informal and there will be no opposing lawyer. Once the ALJ is finished asking you questions, he will generally give your representative, if you have one, an opportunity to ask you questions. After your representative is finished asking you questions, the ALJ and your representative will ask the experts (if any are present) questions.

6. What should I say?

Just be honest and answer each question you are asked. If you don’t understand a question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or for the question to be repeated.

7. Will the ALJ announce his decision at the hearing?

Generally not.  In some instances, the ALJ will make a decision at the hearing, but most of the time the ALJ will close the hearing and you will be sent a decision letter in the mail 2-3 months after the hearing.

If you have an experienced attorney or representative, it is best to speak with him or her before the hearing to go over any questions you might have. The attorney or representative may have worked with the hearing office or ALJ before and might be able to give you more specific information about what to expect.