What will happen at my Social Security Disability/SSI hearing?

By July 1, 2014Blog

Your hearing will take place in a private courtroom without other claimants or unnecessary people present.

Most hearings are in-person with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and usually last between 45 to 60 minutes. Although ALJs have their own individual styles, below is a general outline of what a hearing usually should cover. The hearing generally covers: (1) an introduction; (2) an opening statement; (3) oaths or affirmations; (4) receiving the evidence; (5) receipt of oral testimony; (6) presentation of written or oral argument; and (7) a closing statement.

The introduction is pretty self-explanatory, the ALJ should introduce himself or herself and any others persons in the hearing room, which usually comprise of a hearing assistant, who is there to record the testimony, and medical and/or vocational experts. Second, the ALJ will open the hearing with a brief statement explaining how the hearing will be conducted, the procedural history of the case and the issues involved. An attorney or claimant can also make an opening statement briefly summarizing why they think they are disabled. If the claimant is unrepresented, the ALJ should ensure that the claimant has been properly advised of the right to representation and that the claimant is capable of making an informed choice about representation. If the claimant wishes to proceed without representation, the ALJ should obtain a written waiver of the claimant’s right to representation. However, if the claimant desires to postpone the hearing to obtain a representative, and it is the first such request, the ALJ should grant the requested postponement. Third, the ALJ should take all testimony under oath or affirmation. Fourth, the ALJ must attempt to obtain all evidence pertinent to the matters at issue. Although ALJ has a duty to ensure that the evidence is fully and fairly developed, a claimant should at least notify SSA as early as possible where to obtain medical records or submit the records himself or herself. It is in a claimant’s best interest to submit the evidence as soon as possible preferably well before a hearing date is scheduled.

Fifth, the claimant has a right to testify at their hearing and question witnesses. This is the primary focus of the hearing and where most of the time will be spent. Generally, the ALJ will cover three areas: (a) why are you disabled or unable to work, e.g., medical and/or mental health symptoms and limitations causing disability; (b) how your activities of daily living are limited due to your health issues; and (c) your past jobs duties to determine if you can still perform these jobs or not. Sixth, after all testimony has been presented, the ALJ must offer the claimant and representative an opportunity to make a final oral argument at the hearing. Before closing the hearing, the ALJ must ask the claimant and the representative if they have any additional evidence to submit. In short, there is a lot of territory to cover in a short period of time, thus, you need to be well prepared or have any attorney assist you in preparing for you hearing.

William Dawson is a Social Security attorney in Denver who is uniquely qualified to successfully navigate disability claims. Send a message or call (303) 455-0400.