What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?
How do you Win Benefits under Social Security Disability or SSI?
If I am determined disabled, how far back will Social Security pay benefits?
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition?
What Can I Do to Improve My Chances of Winning Disability Benefits
Common Mistakes after Receiving a Denial of Social Security Disability or SSI Benefits
How to File for Disability - Tips for Filing
If You Get Approved For SSDI Will You Also Get Medicare?
How much does a Social Security disability attorney get paid?
Social Security Disability SSI Criteria and the Evaluation Process
How long does it take to be approved for SSI or Social Security disability?
What do you Need to Prove to Qualify for Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability SSI and Fibromyalgia
Social Security Disability SSI and Degenerative Disc Disease
Can I Qualify For Disability and Receive Benefits based on Depression?
Answers to questions about SSD and SSI disability
What Disabilities Qualify for SSI and Social Security Disability Benefits?
Social Security Disability Status
Social Security Disability Tips — how a claim gets worked on
Social Security Disability, SSI Disability - Terms, Definitions, Concepts
What happens when you go to a Social Security disability hearing ?
How to prove you are disabled
and win disability benefits
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: SSDRC, or the Questions, Answers, Tips, and Advice page
Individual Questions and Answers
SSD and SSI are Federal Programs
The title II Social Security Disability and title 16 SSI Disability programs operate under federal guidelines and, therefore, the program requirements--medical and non-medical--apply to all states:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
Recent approval and denial statistics for various states can be viewed here:
Social Security Disability, SSI Approval and Denial Statistics by state
Special Section: Disability Lawyers and unnecessary claim denials