What to expect at a disability hearing


At your disability hearing, you will meet with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The judge was not involved with the previous review of your case and will be able to look at your case under new light. You will have the opportunity to tell the judge your story. He/she will listen to your testimony and give you a fair chance of explaining your case.

The hearing room for a Social Security case is a small and informal conference room. It is a more relaxed environment. These hearings are not open to the public. The hearing will be held at a conference table. There will also be audio recorders and microphones on the table. 

The people who will attend the hearing will be you, your lawyer, the judge, a hearing assistant, and possibly one or more expert witnesses (where appropriate). The hearing assistant will be recording the hearing. The expert witnesses will be there to help the judge to better understand the specifics of your case. These witnesses are impartial and come from a panel of experts who have been selected by the Social Security Administration. The experts may include a Vocational Expert who will describe the amount of exertion and ability required for your line of work. There may also be a Medical Expert who can help the judge understand how your disability physically affects your ability to work. 

When choosing what to wear to court, you should still dress nicely even though it will be a more casual setting. Wearing shorts, flip flops, jeans or tank tops will not show adequate respect for the court and should be avoided. However, dressing up too much may make the judge think you are ready to return to work. Men should consider wearing khaki or dark colored slacks and a button-down or polo shirt. Women should wear a simple dress or a casual suit. Remember you want to show respect for the court and also present yourself well. 

The judge will introduce himself/herself as well as the hearing assistant and any expert witnesses. Your lawyer, if you have one, will then be asked to introduce himself/herself. Next, the judge will read a statement of the issues that are to be discussed. At this time, any new or updated medical copies may be submitted to the judge. You will then be sworn in. The judge may ask your attorney for an opening statement. The judge will then ask you questions and hear your testimony. Your lawyer may also be given time to ask you questions. The expert witnesses will then be asked questions by the judge and by your attorney. Once the testimonies have been given the hearing will be concluded. You should not expect to get a decision at the end of the hearing. You should receive the decision in about 4 weeks by mail (possibly longer).