What should I expect at my Social Security Disability hearing?
If you have appealed your claim denial to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), you will likely attend a hearing with your attorney or representative. The Administrative Law Judge will review your claim and make a new decision independent of the findings of the Social Security Administration. You will have the opportunity to tell the Administrative Law Judge in person why you believe that you are unable to work.
There are dozens of Administrative Law Judges who hear cases in North Carolina, and each one has his or her own individual quirks and preferences. However, certain things are common to all hearings before all Administrative Law Judges:
- All testimony is taken under oath. The significance of this is that if you or any other witness intentionally lies during the hearing, that witness can be prosecuted for the crime of perjury.
- Audio recordings are made of all hearings so that there is a permanent record if needed for any later appeals or re-hearings.
- The hearing will have different rules than a normal court of law. The Administrative Law Judge can choose to accept evidence in this hearing, like hearsay, which would normally not be admissible in a trial.
These hearings are relatively informal. The hearing will be held in a small, private room that is closed to the public. There will typically be only five people in attendance at this hearing: you, your attorney, the Administrative Law Judge, the person who operates the recording equipment, and a vocational expert.
A Vocational Expert is a person with special training and experience in the job market. The vocational expert’s job at your hearing is to help the Administrative Law Judge understand your work history and help the Administrative Law Judge understand how your medical problems may or may not affect your ability to work. Both the Administrative Law Judge and your attorney will ask the vocational expert questions about his or her opinions.
Normally, the hearing will start with the Administrative Law Judge giving you a brief description of the hearing process, then swearing in both you and the vocational expert. The judge and your attorney will ask you some simple questions so that the judge gets a full understanding of why you believe you are unable to work. You are likely to be asked about the jobs you have held in the past fifteen years, the reasons you stopped working when you did, the medical treatment you have received, the medications you take and their effects on you, and your daily activities since you stopped working. Keep in mind, the judge already has your work history and medical records, so he or she will know a lot about you before the hearing even starts.
Most judges do not announce their decision at the hearing. Usually, it will be six to eight weeks before the Administrative Law Judge issues an opinion in writing.
The appeals process can be complicating and intimidating. You don’t have to handle it alone! Call (800)525-7111 to speak with Riddle & Brantley, LLP’s experienced Social Security attorneys who will guide you through every step of the way.