What happens after you request a disability hearing?

If you've gone through the process of A. applying for Social Security Disability or SSI, B. getting denied for disability, C. filing a request for reconsideration, D. getting denied on that as well, and, finally, E. filing a request for a disability hearing---then you may be wondering what happens next.

Related: The Social Security Hearing Process and Disability lawyers at hearings.

How long it takes to get a hearing after you or your disability attorney have requested one depends, in part, on where you live. That is to say, different hearing office jurisdictions have different backlogs and so the time required to get scheduled will vary by locality. Generally, speaking, however, one can usually assume that it may take at least a year to get a disability hearing after one has been requested (and in some parts of the country it may take twice as long as that).

What happens during this time? Well, in terms of the hearing office, very little, if anything, happens for most of that waiting. This is because cases that have been transferred to the hearing office really just sit there until they "get to the front of the line" to be worked up for a hearing.

Case file workup

What does "worked up" mean? This means that the case file will be prepared for the hearing by marking individual portions of the file (the disability application, the various pieces of medical evidence, and so forth) as exhibits that can be referred to at a hearing by the disability attorney, or non attorney representative, and by the administrative law judge who presides over the hearing.

Having the work up done on a file to prepare it for a hearing is very important, obviously. Unfortunately, for the great majority of the time that a claimant's file is at the hearing office, it is really just sitting there waiting to get "worked up".

From a claimant's perspective, of course, the bottom line is simply this: after a hearing has been requested, there is little to do other than wait for a notice of decision, after which, if the case has been approved by the ALJ, will follow a notice of award. If a claimant has representation, they may wish, at some point, to have their disability representative check the status of the hearing request by calling the hearing office.

In fact, this is certainly something that should be done shortly after a hearing request has been submitted to social security. Why is this? To verify that the hearing request was actually received and that the social security office actually transferred the case to the hearing office. Far too many claimants have been in the position of checking on their hearing request months after it was submitted only to find that the request was either never received by the social security office, or never transferred from the social security office to the hearing office. In either scenario, months of precious time will have been lost.

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.

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