If you have a Social Security disability hearing coming up, you’re probably feeling pretty nervous. What happens next? What can you do to improve your chances of obtaining an approval? By now, you’ve likely been through a lot with the Social Security Administration. At Oren & Oren, we can help you prepare for your hearing, as well as advise of what pitfalls to avoid.
How Long Will I Have to Wait?
Expect to wait 327-602 days before your Social Security disability hearing. Many disability seekers give up when they learn it will take that long. Even when you do have the hearing, it’ll take another 45-90 days for a response, win or lose. That said, a hearing is statistically your best bet for receiving Social Security benefits, so it’s worth the wait.
It’s best to submit any evidence you want the judge to see well in advance, so they can review it before the hearing. You can submit it the day of the hearing, but this may irritate the judge, which won’t help your case.
Is It Formal?
An administrative law judge (ALJ) will preside over your hearing at a local SSA office. If there’s no SSA office within 75 miles, the SSA may offer to conduct a video hearing. You have the right to ask for an in-person hearing, however. Even if it takes longer to arrange, an in-person hearing is better for you.
While a Social Security disability hearing is less formal than most court proceedings, it’s still best to wear your nicest clothing and be on your best behavior. Don’t chew gum, smoke, wear shorts, T-shirts, short skirts, or hats, and don’t bring children along. Treat the ALJ with the same respect you would any other judge.
Who Will Attend?
In addition to you and the judge, other people in the courtroom will include a court reporter, your lawyer (assuming you have one), and a Vocational Expert (VE) who will help the judge assess your disability. The court reporter will swear in everyone except the judge.
What Questions Will the ALJ Ask?
First, the ALJ will ask you about your previous jobs, including your duties and any management experience, so they can classify your work and determine if you’re capable of continuing in other types of work. If you have an attorney, the ALJ then allows your attorney to ask you very specific questions regarding your disability in order to clarify the issue. Among other things, they may ask whether you can still bend over, how much you can lift, how long you can sit, how far you can walk without resting, your level of pain, your level of education, whether you have sleep issues, whether you can read, if you have trouble writing, what you do for fun, if you have any drug or alcohol problems, and other issues.
Whether or not you have an attorney, your ALJ may later ask additional questions for clarification or general informational purposes.
When speaking to the ALJ, speak into the microphone as clearly as possible. Answer every question honestly. If the ALJ thinks you’re lying, it will damage your case.
The Vocational Expert’s Testimony
The Vocational Expert testifies after the ALJ has completed their questioning. Typically, a series of “hypotheticals,” or what-if questions, will be posed to them by the ALJ and your attorney. The idea is to provide the ALJ with enough information to determine whether you can perform gainful work despite your impairments. The ALJ will ask the VE if they think you can do your old job, based on your testimony; if not, he or she will ask them if you can perform alternate work, based on your documented impairments. Your attorney can ask follow-up questions afterward.
As your Social Security disability hearing winds down, the ALJ will ask if you’d like to add anything. Though you don’t have to, we recommend you explain to the judge in your own way why you can no longer work.
Prepare for Your Social Security Disability Hearing
While you’re not required to have legal representation at your hearing, you need it to get the best results. Don’t arrive at the hearing without a disability lawyer. You need all the help you can get to obtain the best results from your Social Security disability hearing. Call Oren & Oren today.