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).