Many people think their Social Security Disability hearing will resemble a courtroom TV drama. Thankfully, that is NOT the case. Social Security hearings are more relaxed. You will be in a small room with only the Judge, the hearing officer, a vocational examiner, and your representative (if you have one). Since these hearings concern your medical information, they are not open to the public.
Once everyone is settled, the Judge will announce that the hearing is on the record, meaning the audio recording has begun. There is a little microphone in front of you that does not amplify your voice, but picks up your responses for the hearing officer to type.
There is a short formality where the Judge asks about the evidence and whether there are any objections to the evidence entered into the record. Then, the Judge will ask you to waive a reading of the issues. Since we all know you are there to determine if you qualify for Social Security Disability, the lengthy reading is usually waived.
Next, you and the vocational examiner will be placed under oath to tell the truth. After that, the important part of the hearing starts. Your representative may make an opening statement, or just ask the Judge to rely on the brief they submitted. Then, you’ll be asked questions by the Judge and by your representative. You will be asked a lot of questions about what type of work you were doing, and what type of problems you have resulting from injuries or conditions. If there are any negative issues in your medical records to be addressed, you will be asked about them as well. This can be medical non-compliance, drug and alcohol use, statements you made to a doctor, or anything that seems contradictory to your testimony. Your representative should ask follow up questions if anything needs to be clarified.
Once the Judge and your representative have asked all of their questions, the Judge will then address the vocational examiner. At this stage, the vocational examiner will be presented with a series of hypothetical questions. The Judge will ask something like: “Assuming a person with this age, education, and work history, if that person has the following limitations……. are they able to go back to any previous work activity?” If the answer is no, then the Judge will ask something like: “Would that individual be able to do any other work activity?” The Judge will likely ask more hypothetical questions, each with increasing limitations. Eventually, you hope the vocational examiner testifies there are no jobs available. After the Judge has concluded their questions, the representative will ask a few questions of the vocational examiner, also in the form of these hypotheticals. Once there are no more questions, the Judge may ask for any closing statements, and end the hearing.
You are not likely to know the outcome of your hearing for several weeks. Some representatives push the Judge to give a ruling during the hearing. I have heard dozens of people complain that the Judge said yes at the hearing, but then reversed themselves in their formal decision. Until the formal decision is issued, your case is not yet decided. It is my practice to be patient and wait for the final decision. Once you get your approval letter, it may be a few more weeks to get your first payment. A representative should stay on the file to make sure you get your back pay and your monthly benefits begin.
Is your case at the Hearing level? Do you have questions about Social Security Disability? Contact us with the information listed below to see how we could help!