Overview of Disability
Disability Back Pay
Requirements for Disability
Applications for disability
Tips and Advice for Disability Claims
How long does Disability take?
Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after a Denial
Mental Disability Benefits
Denials for Disability
Appeals for denied claims
Disability Benefits from SSA
Child Disability Benefits
Qualifications and How to Qualify
Working and Disability
Disability Awards and Notices
Disability Lawyers, Hiring Attorneys
Social Security List of Conditions
What Social Security considers disabling
Medical Evidence and Disability
Filing for Disability Benefits
Eligibility for Disability Benefits
SSD SSI Definitions
SSDRC authored by Tim Moore
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What happens when you go to a Social Security disability hearing?
Generally, disability hearings take place in a hearings office rather than an actual courtroom. The proceedings are usually no more than an hour, and most are less than an hour. Most often, very few people attend a social security disability or SSI disability hearing, and they might include an administrative law judge, vocational expert, medical expert, you, and your representative (if you have one). Of course, some social security disability hearings will primarily just involve an administrative law judge, your representative, and yourself.
When present at a hearing, be prepared to answer any questions a hearing official might have for you and be on time, because many administrative law judges have a tight schedule.
The purpose of the disability hearing is to give the claimant, and their representative if they have chosen to be represented by a disability lawyer or a non-attorney representative (at a social security hearing, it is ill-advised to appear without representation), the opportunity to present the claimant's case to present their case to the adjudicator, or decision-maker who, at the hearing, the decision maker is an ALJ, or administrative law. This process is very different from what occurs at the earlier levels of the process where the claimant never meets the adjudicator (at the initial claim and reconsideration levels, this person is a disability examiner).
What actually happens at a disability hearing will depend greatly on how well A) the case is presented and B) how well the case is prepared for. Presentation of the case will depend on the individual who is handling the presentation having a firm grasp of social security disability and SSI concepts, such as onset date, date last insured, what constitutes substantial gainful work activity, what constitutes a severe impairment, and what types of functional limiations may result from any number of mental and physical impairments. Case preparation is equally important and largely involves making sure that the administrative law judge hearing the case has access to updated medical records and, hopefully, qualified, objective, and detailed statements from the claimant's treating physicians.
Not all hearings are conducted in the same manner and often this depends on the specific judge involved. However, if you attend a disability hearing and are represented, the following will likely occur:
1. Your attorney or non-attorney representative will have supplied the ALJ will updated records and statements.
2. The ALJ, or administrative law judge, will likely have reviewed this information prior to the hearing.
3. The ALJ may decide to have a vocational or medical expert present so that hypothetical situations can be addressed with the benefit of expert representation. These hypotheticals may involve the claimant's ability, given their medical restrictions, to engage in certain types of activities and to potentially perform certain types of work.
4. The claimant may or may not be asked questions by the judge (or even their attorney) regarding their work history and physical or mental limitations.
Return to: Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions
Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:
Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI
These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.
Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria