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Basic Facts about the Administrative Law Judge Social Security Disability Hearing

continued from: What is a Social Security administrative law judge disability hearing?

1. 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. Hearings are also conducted by video to make it easier for both the claimant and the ALJ; however, a claimant who is uncomfortable with having a hearing by video has the right to an in-person hearing if they so demand.

2. A hearing is a process in which the claimant may also appear with a designated representative, who can be a disability lawyer, or a non-attorney claimant's representative.

3. At a hearing, the responsibility for obtaining medical record evidence (which can include statements from the claimant's treating physician, or physicians if there is more than one) falls on the claimant.

Unlike the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels in which all the evidence gathering is done by a disability examiner, at the hearing level the government no longer does any preparation for the case. This is the responsibility of the claimant or their attorney if they are represented.

4. Hearings can last over an hour, but can sometimes be concluded in under twenty minutes (ALJs sometimes have their minds made up well before the hearing even begins).

5. In some cases, a judge may decide to do an on-the-record review of a case and issue a decision prior to the date of the hearing. Usually, this occurs only if a claimant's attorney requests that an on-the-record review be conducted. If an on-the-record decision is made, it is "fully favorable". Anything less than a fully favorable determination would require that the hearing go forward as scheduled.

6. In some cases, a judge may decide to hold the hearing but issue a decision at the hearing versus requiring the claimant to wait for formal notification through the mail. This is known as a bench decision. Bench decisions, like on-the-record decisons, are only granted if the case can be approved as fully favorable (meaning that the judge agrees with the AOD, or alleged onset date, provided by the claimant at the time they decided to file for disability OR that the claimant has agreed to amend their onset date to be in agreement with one proposed by the judge).

7. A claimant is not required to have a representative for a hearing before an ALJ but it is well-advised since it can take well over a year to get a hearing scheduled. Meaning that, for something that takes so long to get to, one should be as prepared as possible. Representation generally results in a substantially more prepared case in addition to a better understanding of the facts of the case and a more skilled presentation of the argument as to why disability benefits should be granted to the claimant.

8. Disability judges are required to provide advance notification of a scheduled hearing date at least 20 days before the hearing actually occurs.

9. Unlike disability examiners at the disability application and reconsideration appeal levels, ALJs actually give weight to the opinion of a claimant's treating physician (a doctor who has a history of providing treatment to a patient, making that doctor qualified to comment on the patient's prognosis and functional limitations). For this reason, a disability representative will usually obtain a medical source statement (also known as a residual functional capacity statement) from a claimant's treating physician.

10. The disability hearing may involve the presence of a medical and/or vocational expert called to appear by the administrative law judge. Medical experts illuminate information contained in the claimant's medical records and can extrapolate for the judge what the claimant's level of functionality might be. Vocational experts can provide testimony as to the vocational job base that might be available to a claimant with a certain level of functional capacity given their age, education, and job skills. When an expert appears at a hearing, it will be the job of the claimant's attorney to respond to hypothetical situations entertained by the expert concerning what the claimant is physically or mentally capable of doing and whether or not they can perform a specific job.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related pages:

Will a Social Security Judge give You an Immediate Decision at the Disability Hearing?
Basic Facts about the Administrative Law Judge Social Security Disability Hearing
Are the Chances of Winning Disability Benefits Higher at a Social Security Hearing with a Judge?
Winning at a Social Security Disability Hearing
Social Security Disability Hearings - what to expect
What happens when you go to a Social Security disability hearing?
Preparing for a Disability Hearing to Win Social Security or SSI Benefits
Presenting evidence at a social security disability or SSI hearing
How Long Does It Take To Get The Results Of A Disability Hearing?
Do Most People Have To Go To A Disability Hearing in order to Get Approved For Disability?
Can you be approved for disability without having to go to a hearing?
Waiting for a Hearing to be Scheduled before an ALJ, Administrative Law Judge
Vocational expert at a disability hearing - what is this?
Social Security Disability Hearings - What is the ALJ

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

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

How to file for disability, SSD or SSI
How to file for Disability and what medical conditions qualify
How long will it take to get disability?
What if your disability gets denied?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How to get disability with a mental condition
How long for Social Security Disability Back pay
Social Security Disability SSI eligibility