Getting denied for Social Security disability benefits is extremely common, though that doesn’t make it feel any less frustrating. Individuals who are denied at the initial and reconsideration stages can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who will make a decision based on all available evidence and the person’s testimony. There are several important factors to take into consideration when you are anticipating a court hearing; you’ll want to ensure you are well-equipped for a successful case. Below, we explain each level of the Social Security disability hearing status and what you should be prepared for.
Prior to Your Disability Hearing
Now is your opportunity to prepare your evidence and case file, as well as submit any new evidence you may have pulled together. Submitting this information as soon as possible is key to ensure the ALJ is able to review your file prior to your hearing. It’s required no later than 5 business days prior to your hearing date.
Evidence should include medical evidence and documentation, detailed descriptions of jobs you’ve had in the past, and any testifying witnesses (though you should notify the ALJ of this prior to the hearing if you plan to have one).
Working with a disability attorney to represent you during your hearing can be extremely helpful, as they have the experience and knowledge to present your case in the best possible light to the judge.
Hearings are typically held within 75 miles of your home, at one of the many Social Security Hearings offices throughout the country. You will receive a notice with the date, time and location a couple of months before the hearing. It is highly recommended that you attend your hearing. If you are unable to attend your hearing due to health issues, you may submit a doctor’s note explaining why.
At Your Disability Hearing
When you attend your hearing, expect it to be informal but recorded. There will likely be a Vocational Expert (VE) and court reporter at your hearing in addition to the Administrative Law Judge. You will have your legal representation if you choose to hire a lawyer, in addition to any witnesses you have prepared.
The ALJ will ask you several questions, ranging from inquiries about your past jobs and classification of previous work to the limitations of your condition due to medical issues. Your attorney will likely review questions with you before the hearing. Some of the questions to anticipate could include the following:
- Do you have pain? If so, how bad is it on a bad day?
- Do you take medication for your condition? Are there any side effects?
- How long can you sit comfortably?
- How much weight can you lift comfortably?
- How far can you walk without stopping?
Are you able to bend over?
- Are you able to write?
- How are you sleeping at night? Do you have to rest at all during the day?
- Are you able to care for yourself? (Clean, shop, cook, dress and bathe)
- Do you regularly see a doctor? If so, how often do you go to appointments?
- Do you ever consume alcohol or use drugs?
- Do you ever feel anxious or depressed? If so, how often?
Speak clearly and concisely when answering these questions, while providing as much information as possible to the judge. Be sure to answer honestly, as you will be giving testimony under oath.
After Your Disability Hearing
The ALJ will review your evidence and complete a written decision, which will be sent to you and your disability attorney. This decision can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months, with an average of about eight weeks. Depending on the ALJ’s decision of benefits approval or denial, your disability attorney will be able to help guide you through the next steps of the benefits process.
Talk to a Social Security Disability Lawyer at Woodruff & Mathis
Social Security disability hearings are typically straightforward, but the process can be intimidating and stressful when you are trying to prove your case for disability benefits. Hiring a qualified Social Security lawyer gives you the peace of mind knowing that you have the best possible chance of winning your case. To learn more about a Social Security disability hearing status or to speak with our experienced team of attorneys at Woodruff & Mathis, please request an appointment today!