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What Can I Expect At My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Understandably, most of my clients are nervous and even a little scared about attending their Social Security Disability hearing. I always tell them, the anticipation is much worse than the hearing itself.

Social Security hearings are informal, compared to the court proceedings you see on TV. There is no witness stand and no opposing counsel to cross examine you. Rather, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who presides over the hearing is an impartial fact finder, considering legal arguments, gathering all the facts, and determining how your conditions limit your ability to work.

Hearings are generally held in hearing rooms with the ALJ sitting on a bench and the rest of the participants at a large table below. There is a clerk, who takes notes and records the hearing. There are microphones on the table to record your testimony.

The hearing begins with the witnesses being sworn in. The ALJ will then review the exhibit file and ensure that the record is complete. It is then your turn to testify. Either the ALJ or your attorney will ask you questions about your past work, conditions, and daily activities. A few things to remember when testifying:

  • Be Honest- This means that if you do not know the answer to a question, say that you do not know. If you do not understand a question, say that you do not understand. You are testifying under oath so you need to be honest in all of your answers.
  • Be as specific as possible- It is important that you quantify your answers. When asked how far you can walk it is better to state, “for two blocks” than it is to testify, “for a while.” Use examples whenever possible to demonstrate the difficulties you have.
  • Do not nod or point- Since the hearing is being recorded, it is important that you verbalize your answers to questions.
  • Be Prepared- Have an experienced Social Security attorney represent you at the hearing. They can ensure that you are familiar with the questions you will be asked make legal arguments to the judge.

After your testimony the ALJ may ask a Vocational Expert (VE) or Medical Expert (ME) to testify. These are impartial experts hired by the Administration to assist the ALJ in making a determination. VE’s classify past work and quantify what work exists in the national economy. ME’s testify about medical conditions based on their review of the exhibits. Your attorney will cross examine the experts on their testimony and/or ask additional questions.

The hearing is the best chance you have to be awarded benefits. Make sure you have every advantage possible. Contact Portnoy Disability today for a free consultation.

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