What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing

A Social Security disability hearing is uncharted territory for most people claiming benefits. If you have a disability hearing approaching, you may be wondering what to expect.

Let’s start with what a disability hearing is not: It is not a court appearance. Yes, a person claiming benefits will appear before a judge and swear to tell the truth, but the hearing will otherwise be relatively informal and take place in a private conference room. Unlike in many court cases the process is non-adversarial, meaning there is no party there to aggressively oppose a person claiming benefits.

Most disability hearings begin with the judge ensuring that the person claiming benefits understands the issues that the judge will consider and confirming that the file is complete. From there, if represented, the hired attorney or advocate may be given the opportunity to make an opening statement.

Next comes the bulk of the hearing, which consists of the person claiming benefits answering questions from the judge, or the hired attorney or advocate, concerning the person’s work history including job duties and physical requirements, educational background, medical conditions, and how those medical conditions impact the person’s life.

Once the questioning of the person claiming benefits is done, the judge will typically turn attention to a vocational expert. A vocational expert is present at a disability hearing to answer questions about how different physical and mental limitations reduce the work force available to a person with those limitations. This is accomplished by first having the judge ask the vocational expert about a hypothetical person who has any number of different limitations and then, based on those limitations, the vocational expert will answer questions regarding whether that hypothetical person could perform the jobs that the person claiming benefits did in the past or if there are other jobs available in the regional or national economy available to that hypothetical person. If someone is represented, that hired attorney or advocate will be given an opportunity to ask the vocational expert questions as well.

In some cases, though not many, a medical expert may also be available at the hearing to testify. The medical expert will give an opinion as to what limitations the person claiming benefits has based on the medical expert’s review of the medical records.

A disability hearing typically lasts between thirty minutes and one hour. At the end of the hearing, many judges will ask the person claiming benefits if there is anything additional the person would like to say. In most cases, a decision will not be reached at the hearing. Typically, the judge will review the evidence, consider the testimony given at the hearing, and then issue a written decision on a later date.

At Burke Law, PLLC, Attorney Burke not only tells her clients what to expect at a disability hearing, but also thoroughly prepares her to clients to answer typically asked questions for as long as it takes for her clients to feel comfortable. At the hearing she will not sit by quietly and will instead be prepared with helpful arguments based on the evidence in the file and to ask well thought out questions of all experts involved. If you, or someone you know, is waiting for a disability hearing, contact Burke Law, PLLC today for a free strategy session. 


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