A Social Security disability hearing provides an opportunity for you and your attorney to present evidence that supports a finding of disability in your case.
You will have a chance to prove your disability to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and ideally be awarded the benefits you need. Knowing what to expect can help alleviate much of your anxiety about the hearing, and being prepared can improve the outcome of your disability hearing decision.
What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing
With COVID, most hearings are now by phone or through video using Microsoft Teams. As of September 2021, the Social Security Administration is not conducting in-person disability hearings.
When the ALJ starts your case either by phone or through video, the ALJ will typically talk to your lawyer about administrative matters such as your willingness to have a phone or video hearing. The ALJ will then read multiple things into the record and some judges will ask your lawyer for an opening statement explaining why you are disabled. The hearing is informal, but you will be asked to take an oath, to tell the truth. The hearing will be electronically recorded by a court reporter who will be on the phone or on-call through video. Once the formalities are completed, the judge or your attorney or both will ask you a series of simple questions about your work history and the medical conditions that prevent you from working. You should answer all questions truthfully and thoroughly.
After your questioning, the judge may ask questions of the medical and/or vocational experts asked to be there. These experts will provide testimony about your medical condition, functional capacity, and ability to work. Even though they are supposed to be neutral, these experts often will say things that undermine your disability or overstate your capacity to work. Your attorney will be able to cross-examine the experts and do so in a way that supports a finding of disability. After the questioning, the ALJ most likely will allow your lawyer to make a final argument for your case.
Tips to Help You through the Disability Hearing
- Here are a few tips that will help you avoid mistakes during the hearing and hopefully reduce your anxiety about the hearing process:
- Address the judge as your honor or sir/ ma’am – don’t call the judge honey or sweetie (it happens enough I felt the need to tell you not to do it)
- Dress normally in clean, presentable work clothes.
- Don’t overdress or wear flashy clothing that might hide your disability from the judge.
- If by phone, make sure you have your phone fully charged and have a quiet place to do the hearing, if you have headphones or earbuds those often help make your testimony more clear
- Don’t speak unless you’re asked to. It’s natural to panic or become upset when you hear the medical or vocational expert say things that minimize what you’re going through. Don’t blurt anything out, however. You will have an opportunity to explain your side of the story.
- Keep your answers brief and concise when the ALJ asks you questions. Don’t provide more information than what was requested.
- Tell the truth. Never exaggerate but don’t understate your disability. Honesty is always the best policy.
- If the judge asks if you have anything else to say -say NO. Inevitably this question leads to claimant’s rambling and often testifying to things that hurt their case
Chad Brown Law has performed 1000s of disability hearings over the years. Call us today at (336) 546-5066 to see how we can help you win your disability hearing.