This post discusses hearings for Social Security Disability. If you are denied at the initial and reconsideration levels for Social Security Disability, you will have to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
After you request your hearing, it can take 13-15 months for your hearing to be scheduled. You can attempt to have your hearing scheduled sooner if you are in a dire need situation. The hearing will be at a ODAR (Office of Disability, Adjudication and Review).
When your hearing is scheduled, you will be sent three forms to fill out. They are about your medications, recent medical treatment and work background. Fill out these forms as soon as possible and return them. There will also be a letter which asks if you are going to attend the hearing. You simply check the box and return.
There will be few people in the room at your hearing. Your attorney, the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge), the VE (Vocational Expert) and the hearing reporter. Social Security rarely uses Medical Experts (ME), but there is a chance one could be used in your case.
The ALJ, your attorney or both will ask you questions. Hearing styles vary. They range from an inquisition to the only occasional head nod from the ALJ during your testimony. (For information on ALJ reviews look here.) In either of these extremes, do not ramble on during your hearing. Answer the questions asked of you as simply and truthfully as possible. In other words, respect the ALJ and their time.
A few sample questions include: education, previous jobs, living situation, medications, where you go to the doctor, if you have pain (where and when started) and what type of treatment you have received, and you will be asked to describe an average day for you. In addition, for mental disorders: how you interact with others, if you have any problems completing tasks (concentration) and if your medications have help.
The VE does not question you, they only respond to questions from the ALJ and your attorney. VE’s get their information from their experience and the DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles). In all fairness, I have no problem with a VE’s experience as a source of information. I do however take issue with the DOT. Its ancient.
Hearings for Social Security Disability usually last 30-45 minutes. This is the only time in your case that you will get to see someone at the Social Security Administration in person who can make a decision on your case. Use the time wisely!