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.

The hearing office is where your case is transferred to after you or your disability lawyer file a formal "request for hearing before an administrative law judge". The request is actually sent to the social security office. There the request is processed so that the case can be transferred to the hearing office.

Once the case is at the hearing office, a claimant will usually (though not always) receive a notice of acknowledgement to let them know that the case has been transferred. At that point, what usually happens is...quite a bit of waiting for the case to be prepared and the hearing to be scheduled.

Long waits exist for the scheduling of hearings because of significant backlogs in the claim system. In the year 2000 and earlier, after a request for a disability hearing had been sent in, it could take as little as five months to get a hearing assigned to an administrative law judge and scheduled. These days, due to backlogs, it can sometimes take over two years to get a hearing date.

Will you have any advance notice that the hearing date is approaching? Possibly. Not all hearing offices prepare an exhibit list, which is a compilation of everything that is in a claimant's file. However, those that do will typically send a copy of the list to the attorney of record (assuming a claimant has a disability attorney handling his or her claim). When the attorney receives a copy of the exhibit list, this is an indication that the case is getting closer to being scheduled.

Will your disability hearing be scheduled close to where you live? Possibly, though claimants have, in the past, been required to drive significantly from end of their state to the next to get to a hearing office. It is for this reason that the social security administration began to make video hearings available.

Note: if you are scheduled for a video hearing, you have the right to decline and have a face-to-face hearing. Just keep in mind that declining a video hearing in favor of a standard hearing may slow down your case.

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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