What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing?

Submitted by Kyle on Mon, 11/21/2011 - 09:49

A Social Security Disability hearing is an option that a potential Social Security Disability recipient may experience in the event that his or her Social Security Disability claim has been denied during the initial stage of the disability claim process. Individuals who have been denied disability have the opportunity to have their case heard by an administrative law judge, known as an ALJ.

Once such a hearing has been scheduled (something that can take two years or more), it is up to the recipient to arrive at the location of the hearing as designated by the Social Security Administration. There are only a certain number of locations in each state where these hearings take place. If the claimant misses their appointment or scheduled court date, they have to start the process all over again.

Before arriving at the hearing, it's essential for the Social Security Disability applicant to gather and bring with them certain documents, including copies of the Social Security Disability Insurance application, copies of medical records and copies of the questionnaires that have been completed and any updated medical evidence.

The Social Security Administration will also gather documents from the claimant's file including their application, copies of medical records gathered by their own disability determination services and copies of your questionnaires.

In attendance at the Social Security Disability hearing will be the judge, a recorder, and, if desired, a disability representative or Social Security attorney for the claimant as well as any witnesses, such as doctors who may be requested to testify and offer their expertise.

At the beginning of the hearing, the judge will offer a short summary of the case and admits the case file as evidence. The judge may then ask questions to the claimant or the claimant's representative or lawyer. The claimant should be prepared to answer questions regarding their personal history as well as their job history, job duties and physical and nonphysical requirements of the jobs they have performed.

Claimants may also be questioned regarding what, specifically, is keeping them from being able to work. Medical definitions, conditions, and diagnoses will be included in a claimant's medical records submitted to the judge, but claimants may answer questions by stating symptoms as well as limitations of their medical condition.

The judge may also want to know about the claimant's doctors and any treatments or procedures the claimant has undergone or plans on receiving, including surgery. The judge may also ask about medications as well as side effects of those medications. The claimant's history of medical treatment or hospitalization will also be addressed.

The claimant should also be prepared to answer questions regarding the limitations placed upon them by their disabling medical condition. The judge will also ask about the claimant's emotional and mental state and if he or she has been diagnosed with any mental disorders, or question whether or not the claimant has difficulty with concentration or memory. This is done to determine both mental and physical limitations, and claimants should always answer honestly.

If a lawyer for the claimant is present, the disability lawyer may be asked to make any concluding remarks. Such remarks should be brief and not taken as an opportunity to disparage the Social Security system, the length of the waiting time, or discuss any other delays the claimant may have experienced. The claimant will also be allowed to speak before the hearing is officially closed.

If no further evidence is being offered, the administrative law judge can make an immediate decision at the conclusion of the hearing, but this is fairly rare. In most cases, claimants will hear a decision within one to two months following the hearing date, though such decisions can sometimes take longer.

Because the claim process is rather complicated and can be very overwhelming, it is highly suggested that claimants are represented at such a hearing by a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney. These professionals can make the hearing much less stressful and can actually increase a claimant’s chances of winning his or her Social Security Disability case.

By filling out a form for a free case evaluation, you will be contacted by an attorney who can help you with your case. An attorney will be able to help you file all of the necessary paperwork with the SSA, and they can represent you at your hearing if your claim is denied.