Disability Hearings: What You Need to Know and Expect

Be Prepared for a Disability Hearing

After you file an appeal of an Initial Application or Reconsideration denial of benefits, whether or not you meet the rules to qualify for Social Security disability will be determined at a hearing. Although going into this type of situation can be intimidating, the good news is by learning more about it, you won’t have to worry about being caught off-guard.

To help you prepare, here are answers to four common questions SSD applicants have about disability hearings:

Who Will Be at Your Disability Hearing?

If you hire an attorney to help you with your case your attorney will be present with you. An administrative law judge will conduct the hearing and a court reporter will monitor the recording equipment to ensure that a usable record is made of the hearing testimony. Other individuals who may be present to testify include a vocational and medical expert. Your lawyer may also have one or more witnesses come and testify on your behalf.

While you’re probably already familiar with the role of a judge, court reporter and witnesses in a legal hearing, you may be wondering what vocational and medical experts do. Vocational and medical experts are impartial witnesses paid by the federal government to give testimony. A vocational expert will classify your prior jobs, as well as give an opinion on what, if any, jobs a person with your physical and mental limitations might be capable of performing. Both the judge and your attorney can ask questions of the vocational expert. A medical expert may summarize your medical diagnoses and care for the judge and identify if your impairment meets a Social Security Listing. A medical expert may also give an opinion on what work-related limitations a person with your health impairments might have and if your symptoms are consistent with other people suffering from similar conditions.

How Should You Respond to a Judge’s Questions?

The duration of your hearing will likely fall in the fifteen to sixty minute range. During this time, the judge will probably ask you about your past work, as well as your current symptoms and limitations. Whenever you answer, the most important thing to remember is to clearly and directly answer the actual question the judge asked you.

While that may seem obvious, a significant percentage of SSD applicants hurt their own cases by going off subject, not being specific enough or even exaggerating. Since most judges don’t have any patience for that type of behavior, making your answers as clear as possible should significantly help your case.

What Topics Should You Avoid Discussing?

Even if you’re no longer able to do a certain type of work, it’s common for the Social Security Administration to propose that you’re still capable of doing other forms of work. Don’t use your hearing as an opportunity to complain about what the SSA might propose. Instead, if you believe that you’re not capable of doing those jobs or there aren’t enough of those jobs in your area, you will need to put that information into a clear argument to present to the judge and vocational expert.

Why Is It Important to Have a Lawyer?

As you can see from the above information, there’s a lot that goes into preparing and presenting a successful disability case. If you want someone who can guide you through this process, you need a disability lawyer. Contact Lisa M. Ritacco today to schedule a free consultation about your case.