Disability Hearings - Information on the Social Security Hearing Process

    How do I request a Social Security Disability hearing - How do I file?
    You may file a request for a disability hearing online, or by contacting your local social security office over the phone or in person, or, if you have a disability attorney, that individual will file and submit the necessary paperwork as well as send you copies of what has been submitted.

    Requesting a Social Security Hearing when you have a Disability Representative or Attorney
    If you are represented, the disability attorney will handle your hearing request for you. And in doing so, the attorney will submit all the necessary forms including medical release forms (form SSA-827).

    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.

    Basic Facts about the Administrative Law Judge Social Security Disability Hearing
    A Social Security Disability or SSI hearing is held at an approved location which is usually a hearing office (ODAR, office of disability adjudication and review), but is sometimes a satellite location (a rented office in a bank or a hotel conference room, for example) for the convenience of claimants who live too far from the actual hearing office.

    Preparing for a Disability Hearing to Win Social Security or SSI Benefits
    Proper preparation for a disability hearing will include making sure, at a proper time before the holding of the hearing, that the most recent medical records are obtained, copied (you always need to keep copies) and sent to the judge at the hearing office.

    How long does a Social Security Disability hearing last?
    Disability hearings are, fairly often, somewhat short. It is not unusual to even have a hearing last as little as 10-15 minutes.

    Responsibilities of the Disability Representative Before and After the Social Security Hearing
    The various responsibilities of the disability representative, who may be a disability lawyer, or a non-attorney disability represenative, are summarized on this page.

    Social Security Disability Hearings - what to expect
    The judge may ask you about the severity of your medical and/or mental conditions, specifically as to their impact on your activities both at home and at work.

    Social Security Disability Hearings - What is the ALJ
    If your case has progressed to the hearings level of the Social Security Disability process, then an administrative law judge, or ALJ, will be the individual to determine if you are considered disabled under the disability rules and guidelines of the Social Security Administration.

    Can a disability attorney speed up my disability hearing? By What Methods?
    If you have representation on your Social Security Disability or SSI disability claim, your disability attorney can attempt to speed up the scheduling of your hearing before an administrative law judge, or even eliminating the need for a hearing altogether. Generally, this would only be possible in one of several ways.

    How Long Does It Take To Get The Results Of A Disability Hearing?
    ALJs will often inform the claimant that they may receive written notification 45 days to 90 days after the hearing date. However, it is not unusual for a hearing office to deliver a decision on a disability hearing only after several months have passed.

    Will a Social Security Judge give You an Immediate Decision at the Disability Hearing?
    The notice of decision comes in three flavors.

    What are the questions that get asked at a Social Security Disability or SSI hearing?
    The judge may ask you about your educational background, i.e. your level of education, and any additional training you may have obtained. The judge may also inquire about your work history, questioning you about what duties were performed in certain jobs.

    Can I get my Social Security Disability Hearing Request Expedited, Speeded up?
    Keep in mind, however, that each hearing office will typically only expedite a claim if a claimant can demonstrate a level of dire need.

    Speeding up the Request for a Social Security Hearing - Documentation that is needed
    A request to speed up, or expedite, a disability hearing will often go to a hearing office director. But in many situations, it will simply be sent to the hearing office director because the case has not yet been assigned to a specific ALJ (administrative law judge).

    Vocational expert at a disability hearing - what is this
    Vocational experts provide vocational advice to disability adjudicators from the initial disability claims level through the administrative law judge hearing level.

    What are Medical Experts at Social Security Disability hearings?
    Why are experts called to disability hearings? Arguably to assist the judge in his or her decision-making. Though, in all honesty, very often experts are called by judges to hearings to support a decision which the judge already has in mind.

    Can you present evidence at a Social Security Disability or SSI hearing?
    Yes, you can present evidence in the form of medical records or a statement from a physician at a disability hearing. However, this is not just an option, it is a necessity.

    How Long Will My Disability Case Be at the Social Security Hearing Office Before It gets Scheduled?
    Social Security Disability and SSI hearings typically take a year or more to be scheduled, due to current backlogs within the Social Security system. In areas in which the population is greater, or where whole industries are disappearing (such as Detroit), the wait for a disability hearing could take over two years.

    Does your chance of winning disability benefits at a hearing depend on the judge you get?
    Some judges have a reputation for being tougher on children's disability claims while others are known to be less (or more) likely to approve a case that is based primarily on a certain condition, such as ADHD or fibromyalgia.

    How long does it take to get a Social Security Disability hearing decision?
    When it comes to initial claims (i.e. disability applications), decisions are generally received within 120 days from the date of filing. However, decisions can take much much longer due to the following factors:

    Disability Lawyers, Medical Records, and Social Security Hearings - Should you go to a Hearing alone?
    Disability lawyers and non-attorney disability representatives do a variety of tasks when they handle a claim, and this includes doing the following to prepare a presentation of the case to a federal judge:

    Why does Representation increase the win ratio at a Social Security Disability or SSI Hearing?
    Disability hearings are similar to various types of court proceedings in which A) solid case preparation and B) a proper presentation of the relevant arguments and positions--specifically, pertaining to why the individual should be approved to receive disability benefits--are both necessary in order to win the case.

    Additional pages

    What are the chances of winning a Social Security Disability Benefits hearing?
    If you have a representative, they most likely have gathered the necessary medical evidence to update your file. They may have gotten physician statements from your treating medical sources, or even functional capacity reports.

    Do Most People Have To Go To A Disability Hearing in order to Get Approved For Disability?
    It may seem that most people have to go to a disability hearing to get approved for disability, but statistics indicate that more people are approved prior to the disability hearing level.

    Do Most People Need To See A Judge To Get Disability Benefits From Social Security?
    At a hearing, an ALJ, or administrative law judge, will give full consideration to a statement supplied by a claimant's treating physician, as long as statement is not contradicted by the medical records.

    Where are Social Security Disability and SSI hearings held?
    Disability hearings are held at what was once known as OHA, the office of hearings and appeals. OHA itself hasn't changed, but the name is now ODAR, the office of adjudication and review.

    When Are You Allowed To Ask For A Social Security Disability Hearing?
    The second appeal level is a request for an administrative law judge hearing, or simply a Social Security Disability hearing.

    Do I Need a Lawyer for My Social Security Disability Hearing?
    Those who are represented by either a qualified disability attorney or non-attorney representative don't have much to do in preparation for a hearing, other than show up. A competent disability representative will ensure that all of the documentation needed to substantiate a claim is in the file and readily available for a judge's review.

    Who Makes the Decision at the Social Security Disability, SSI Hearing Level?
    How does the administrative law judge (or a disability examiner if the case is being worked on at the lower levels of the system) evaluate whether or not a person can work?

    How Many Disability Hearings are Won?
    Forty percent of claimants who go to hearings unrepresented will typically win their claims. What is the benefit of representation then? Up to sixty-two percent of claimants who go to hearings with representation will win their claims.

    Making a Request for a Disability Hearing
    A judge is statistically more likely to grant disability benefits than a disability examiner; 40 to 60% of all disability cases heard by a judge are approved. The only drawback to the disability hearing is that it takes a long time to get a hearing on the scheduling calendar.

    Social Security Disability Hearing - How Do I Request One?
    Only if your reconsideration appeal is denied are you eligible to request a Social Security Disability hearing. Since it takes so long to get to the disability hearing appeal and it takes even more time to be scheduled for a hearing, make sure to request your disability hearing as soon as your receive a denial for your reconsideration

    When do you receive a Hearing for Disability?
    You receive a hearing before an Administrative Law judge sometime after the following has occurred: A) you have been denied on a request for reconsideration appeal and B) you, or your disability lawyer or disability representative, have requested the hearing.

    Social Security Disability Hearing with a Judge
    A disability hearing may take place in the presence of not only the claimant, the claimant's attorney, and the judge, but may also include experts that the judge has called on to appear, such as a vocational expert (these experts provide testimony as to the likelihood of a claimant being able to re-enter the workforce) or a medical expert.

    The Social Security Disability Hearing Office
    ODAR has ten regional offices, 161 hearing offices (including seven satellite offices), five national hearing centers, and two national case assistance centers.

    Appearing at the ALJ Hearing for Social Security Disability and SSI Benefits
    For most cases, the ALJ disability hearing (where the claimant and their disability attorney may appear in person before an administrative law judge at a hearing office) will be as far as their case goes.

    How long does a request for a disability hearing appeal take?
    There are two aspects to this question: how long it takes to get a hearing scheduled, and how long it take to get to get a decision after a hearing has been held.

    Waiting for a Hearing to be Scheduled before an ALJ, Administrative Law Judge
    In cases where a claimant is represented, of course, the representative will generally make considerable effort to obtain the following:

    Can you be approved for disability without having to go to a hearing?
    While a fairly large percentage of disability applicants must go to a hearing to be approved for disability, it is certainly not the rule.

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

    What is the time frame for a judge to make a decision for a disability hearing?
    Social Security administrative law judges have no time frame in which to make their disability hearing decision. Generally, they do not write their case decisions. Most disability decisions are written by decision writers.

    Winning at a Social Security Disability Hearing
    A claim for disability is more likely to be approved by a judge at a federal disability hearing than by a disability examiner working for your state disability determination agency.

    How do you prepare for a disability hearing in North Carolina?
    In some states, a person who has been denied for disability on their initial claim may immediately request a disability hearing. In North Carolina, though, a person must go through a separate "request for reconsideration " appeal before asking for a hearing appeal.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.