Preparing for Hearings 2017-10-30T23:26:42+00:00

How To Prepare For Your SSDI Hearing

Learn what to expect and how to get ready for this all-important hearing.

The SSA routinely denies two-thirds of all initial applications for disability benefits, and that average fluctuates from office to office. Administrative law judges (ALJs), however, eventually overturn nearly half of the denials that reach their desks. If you don’t give up and appeal your claim with assistance from True Help, you have a good chance of ultimately receiving your entitled benefits at the hearing level.

Preparing For A Hearing FAQs

The following questions and answers should help you better understand and prepare for your upcoming hearing.

Waiting on your hearing is usually a long process because of the current disability backlog in the SSA. It’s important not to lose patience or give up.

If a hearing is scheduled, you should plan on attending. You have the right to appear before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at a hearing. An SSDI representative’s goal should be to get your claim awarded as early as possible with the least amount of stress. Your True Help representative may try to work with the ALJ and staff to get your case reviewed and awarded on-the-record before a hearing is held. If the judge is unable to award your case on-the-record, a hearing is scheduled and your True Help representative will represent you at the hearing.

This is a question that you should ask when choosing disability representation. For example, we specialize in Social Security disability issues. Our representatives have extensive experience with the disability process and some have attended hundreds of hearings in your local area. By routinely tracking and reviewing ALJ decisions, they get a better understanding of how the ALJ approaches various types of cases.

An ALJ can postpone a hearing for good cause. Examples may be a serious illness, death in the family, inclement weather or a key witness not being available to attend the hearing.
You should dress neat and comfortable. Don’t under or over dress, and remember your attire should indicate you have respect for the court.

It looks much like a conference room with the judge sitting at one end of the table/room and you, the claimant, facing the judge. The location of the hearing room varies from a courtroom to a hotel room to a rented space in a public building. Or, you may have your hearing via video conference, which includes the judge at his/her physical office and you and your True Help representative at a satellite location.

Yes, family members may accompany you to the hearing site. However, it will be at the judge’s discretion whether observers are allowed in the hearing room.
You may bring witnesses to help validate the legitimacy of your claim. A spouse or family member may serve as a witness, but this is not common. Some judges choose to have witnesses wait outside the hearing room until after you have testified.
Yes, the hearing will be audio recorded by an assistant. You are encouraged to speak loudly and clearly and vocalize any movements you are making. For example, you will want to reply “Yes” or “No” instead of nodding your head.

Other people in the courtroom with you will be the ALJ, the hearing assistant who records the proceedings, your True Help representative and any approved witnesses whom you invite to the hearing.

The ALJ is expected to treat you with respect and dignity. The hearing is not intended to be an adversarial situation. All ALJs differ in their styles, but your True Help representative is aware of this and will prepare you in advance.

The medical expert is a physician the judge calls to review the records of your treating physicians and to provide opinions on the testimony. The medical expert doesn’t perform an examination and may ask some questions of you related to your condition, with permission from the judge and your True Help representative.

The vocational expert responds to hypothetical questions from the judge about limitations related to your ability to work that may apply in your case, usually based on your file and the testimony.
Absolutely not, but you do need to be thorough and represent yourself accurately. Don’t overstate the nature of your disability, but don’t understate it either. Give the judge all the facts, and trust the ALJ to make a fair decision.

By the time your claim reaches the ALJ level, your True Help representative has already done a lot of work. This includes reviewing your case to ensure that all medical records have been updated and that the judge and witnesses have the information they need to make an informed decision. During the hearing your True Help representative will help clarify any questions asked by the ALJ and cross-examine witnesses, if necessary.

Although questions are usually directed to you, the ALJ may ask your True Help representative questions about certain details in your medical records. Your True Help representative may also give opening and closing arguments.

The judge may ask questions about your disability, the amount of pain you suffer and how your disability affects your daily life. Normally, however, ALJs will not ask you technical medical questions about your condition.
It varies depending on the number of witnesses and complexity of the claim, but you are usually in and out of the hearing in about an hour.
As a rule, ALJs do not release a decision immediately following the hearing, but they are required to inform you of the decision in writing. Unfortunately, this may take a while; typically 60-90 days.
Don’t give up. If your claim is denied at the hearing level, you may appeal that decision to the Appeals Council for further review.
The next step of the appeal process is to take your case to Federal District Court. An SSDI representative can review your case to determine if an appeal to the court is warranted and will discuss this with you at the appropriate time.

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