What can I expect during a social security disability hearing?


It pays to know what to expect during a hearing that evaluates your eligibility for social security disability benefits.

The hearing is your forum to help convince Social Security that you are indeed eligible for benefits. Before the hearing, someone from Social Security evaluated your case, based solely on medical records and even without your meeting face to face. With the hearing, you can appeal for reconsideration in person if your case is denied.

The persons present during a hearing will be the judge, his assistant (who will transcribe the proceedings of the hearing), expert witnesses, your lawyer and yourself.

Every judge has his or her own unique style of running the hearing. However, here's a simplified outline of what will happen during the hearing:

  • The judge will have everyone do the introductions for the record.
  • The judge will read the statement that outlines the issues to be heard. This may be waived upon the agreement of your lawyer. The judge may also ask the lawyer for any records that are presently not in your file or if he has any objections regarding the records. (Please note that your lawyer must have up-to-date records to be submitted to the judge. You should keep your lawyer updated about your medical treatment - new doctors, a different kind of treatment, etc.)
  • You will be asked to give your testimony. This may cover basic information such as your living arrangements and who is staying with you at home, as well as what kind of past work you have performed during your employment. The testimony should also cover your medical condition and problems and how this affects your ability to do your usual activities and responsibilities. The judge may ask you some questions like how long you worked at a job, your duties and responsibilities, or what physical exertions you do in the performance of your duties.
  • The judge may call on expert witnesses to discuss your disability. A Vocational Expert and Medical Expert may testify in order to give the judge an evaluation of whether your impairment will indeed prevent you from doing jobs that you previously performed.
  • The judge will give his or her ruling. It may be during the hearing itself or after a specified number of days.

When testifying, be sure to remember the following:

  • Be truthful.
  • Be specific - what jobs or daily tasks can you not do anymore due to your condition? What kind of pain do you experience?
  • Relax! It's natural to be nervous but try to be calm and relaxed.
  • Speak out loud. Don't just answer in nods or shakes of the head - remember that you are being tape recorded.
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