How to file for disability, Filing for SSI
Disability Requirements, Disability Status
How long is the wait?, Disability Application
The Social Security List of Impairments
Qualifying for Disability, Mental Disability
Disability Lawyer Info, Disability Back Pay

Social Security Disability and Going In Front Of A Judge - What Happens?

If you have followed the Social Security Disability appeal process, you will eventually be scheduled for a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. Social Security hearings are generally held in an informal hearing room, something like a business meeting room.

Generally, it will be you and your representative and any witnesses or experts that you and/or your representative have chosen to call as part of your disability case. Of course, there is an administrative law judge present and any vocational or medical experts present that they feel might be needed to help them make their disability decision. Most often, there are not many people in attendance.

Once the hearing begins, the administrative law judge might ask you some questions about your medical condition or conditions, how they affect your ability to work or perform regular daily activities, or any other question that the judge deems pertinent to your disability case. You should be prepared to answer questions thoroughly and to the best of your ability.

If you have a representative (a disability lawyer or non-attorney claimant's representative), they may have experts that they feel will help the administrative law judge understand how your condition or conditions limit your functional capacity and render you unable to perform work that is self sustaining.

However, this is usually an unlikely scenario. Typically, if you have representation, you will simply show up at the hearing with your attorney. Prior to the hearing, your disability attorney will have done the following:

1. Reviewed your prior file -- This file includes copies of your denials that were issued at the disability application and requestion for reconsideration (the first appeal is the reconsideration) levels, and copies of the medical evidence that was obtained by the disability examiners who rendered those earlier decisions.

It also includes copies of documentation that constitute the case development for your claim; for example copies of your work activity questionaires, your activities of daily questionaire, and the residual functional capacity forms that were completed by the doctors who provided consultation for each disability examiner who worked on your claim.

By reviewing the prior file, your disability lawyer will be able to gain an understanding of what occurred in the development of your case, what the rationale was for denying your claim, and whether or not evaluative or procedural errors were made on your case (such as failing to properly interpret medical evidence or failing to apply a medical-vocational rule properly).

2. Gathered updated medical record documentation -- Most claimants become aware of the fact that social security gathers medical records in order to make a decision on a claim. However, most are likewise unaware that, at the hearing level, social security does not do any record gathering at all. At this level of the system, it is entirely the responsibility of the claimant and his or her social security lawyer to provide updated medical records.

Of course, since disability hearings tend to occur many months after they are actually requested, a failure to present a disability judge with recent medical records will naturally mean that it will be impossible for the claimant to win their case.

The amount of preparation done for a case that is presented at a hearing is often directly reflected in the decision of the administrative law judge. Howeve, the decision of the disability judge can take quite a while. At the hearing, the judge may or may not indicate to the claimant and the claimant's attorney what the decision will be.

However, even if the judge does indicate that "the case will be paid" (i.e. approved), it may still weeks or months for the claimant to receive A) a notice of decision from the hearing office and B) a notice of award detailing what the claimant's monthly benefits will be and how much they can expect to receive in social security back pay.

Is the disability hearing process openly adversarial or hostile? It usually is not, but it can be. There are many instances in which administrative law judges who decide disability claims have taken the position of being openly condescending in questioning the claimant about their condition, their limitations, or their work history. And very often it would seem as though the judge has already made up their mind prior to the hearing itself.

This certainly does happen, of course (judges arriving at decisions before a hearing takes place). But, sometimes it happens in the claimant's best interests when a judge reviews the file, determines that the case should never have been denied at earlier levels, and decides to approve the case on-the-record, thus rendering the holding of a hearing unnecessary.

Essential Questions

What is the Social Security Disability SSI list of impairments?

Can you work while getting or applying for Disability?

How Often Does Social Security Approve Disability The First Time You Apply?

Tips for getting Social Security Disability or SSI benefits approved

What medical conditions will get you approved for disability?

What kind of Mental Problems Qualify for Disability?

Receiving a Disability Award Letter

Conditions Social Security will recognize as a disability

Previously answered questions regarding SSD and SSI

Applying for disability in your state

Most popular topics on SSDRC.com

Social Security Disability SSI Questions

The listings, list of disabling impairments

Can a mental illness qualify you for disability?

Disability Lawyers prevent unnecessary denials

How much Social Security Disability SSI back pay?

How to apply for disability for a child or children

Filing a Social Security Disability SSI application

Filing for disability - when to file

How to apply for disability - where to apply

Qualifications for disability benefits

How to Prove you are disabled and Win your Disability Benefits

Qualifying for Disability - The Process

How to get disability for depression

Getting disability for fibromyalgia

SSI disability for children with ADHD

What is the Application Process for Social Security Disability and SSI?

Common Mistakes to avoid after being denied for Disability

Social Security Disability SSI Exam tips

More Social Security Disability SSI Questions

Social Security Disability SSI definitions

What makes you eligible for Social Security Disability or SSI?

New and featured pages on SSDRC.com

Who can help me file for disability?

Related pages:

How to get Disability, tip 2
How to dress for a disability hearing
Can I lose my disability benefit if I file an appeal for back pay?
Social Security Disability and Going In Front Of A Judge - What Happens?
Do Most People Need To See A Judge To Get Disability Benefits From Social Security?
Can you still Appeal if the Judge denies your Disability Claim?
Is An ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) More Likely To Grant A Claim For Social Security Disability or SSI?
How Long Does It Take To Go Before A Judge For Disability Benefits?
Does The Social Security Judge Use The Same Rules As The Disability Examiner?
How do I see a judge for my Social Security Disability case or SSI Claim?
Do you have to see a judge to get disability benefits?
When do you see a judge for a Social Security Disability or SSI claim?
What Percentage Of Social Security Disability or SSI Cases Does A Judge Deny?
What if I receive disability and want to cash out an IRA?

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Can you get temporary Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?

Permanent Social Security Disability

What is the difference between Social Security Disability and SSI?

Who is eligible for SSI disability?

Can I Be Eligible For SSI And Social Security Disability At The Same Time?

What makes a person eligible to receive disability benefits?

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?

For the sake of clarity, SSDRC.com is not the Social Security Administration, nor is it associated or affiliated with SSA. This site is a personal, private website that is published, edited, and maintained by former caseworker and former disability claims examiner, Tim Moore, who was interviewed by the New York Times on the topic of Social Security Disability and SSI benefits in an article entitled "The Disability Mess" and also by the Los Angeles Times on the subject of political attempts to weaken the Social Security Disability system.

The goal of the site is to provide information about how Social Security Disability and SSI work, the idea being that qualified information may help claimants pursue their claims and appeals, potentially avoiding time-consuming mistakes. If you find the information on this site helpful and believe it would be helpful to others, feel free to share links to its homepage or other pages on website resource pages, blogs, or social media. Copying of this material, however, is prohibited.

To learn more about the author, please visit the SSDRC.com homepage and view the "about this site" link near the bottom of the page.