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What Happens at a Social Security Disability Benefits Hearing?

The date for your Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits hearing may be fast approaching. It’s OK to be concerned about it. It’s OK to be a little nervous, too. After all, this may be the first time you have appeared in a legal proceeding. A lot will be at stake for you and your family.

At Hardison & Cochran, we believe that having an attorney thoroughly prepare your case can help to ease your stress. Your attorney should also let you know what to expect at the hearing.

Courtroom at a social security disability benefits hearing.

1. Know how your case arrived at the hearing level.

Before you go into a hearing, you should understand how your case got to this point.

First, you were diagnosed with a condition that has kept you out of work. You took action to protect you and your family. You filed your benefits application with the Social Security Administration (SSA). That was the first level in your case.

If your claim was denied by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) team that reviewed your case, then you went to the second level. You filed a request for reconsideration.

If your claim was denied again by a different DDS team, then you reached this level: The hearing.

You can expect a completely new review of your case. The decision on your claim will be made by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This judge had no role in the earlier denials of your claim.

Look at this as a fresh opportunity to receive fair and thoughtful consideration of your claim.

2. The hearing will be a formal proceeding.

A SSD benefits hearing is not a trial. Still, it is a fairly formal proceeding. The hearing will follow specific procedures. It will be conducted according to established rules. There will be a judge, or ALJ. Evidence will be presented. Witnesses will testify. A court report will transcribe it.

Your hearing won’t be open to the public. The ALJ, court reporter, expert witnesses and other witnesses will attend along with you and your attorney. If friends or family members want to be there to support you, they will need to wait until after the hearing is over. 

3. Questions will be asked.

At the start of the hearing, the ALJ will explain the issues being considered in your case. The ALJ may then ask questions of you to establish certain facts.

If you are questioned, you will be under oath. You need to be honest, accurate and clear in your answers. The questions may include requests for basic information such as your name, age, height and weight.

They may also include more pointed questions. The ALJ will be asking these questions to determine the nature and extent of your medical condition. The goal is to determine if you have a disability that qualifies you to receive benefits.

The ALJ will also question a doctor and vocational expert from the Social Security Administration. The ALJ will ask about your medical condition. The ALJ will also ask if your condition keeps you from working your previous job. The ALJ will want to know if there are any jobs available for someone with your disabilities. These witnesses will testify under oath, too.

When the ALJ has finished asking questions, you and your attorney can present your case. You may testify. Your attorney may question the expert witnesses and others under oath. Finally, you and your attorney can make a statement that explains your situation. 

4. You will be notified of the decision.

After considering the evidence and testimony, the ALJ will make a decision on your benefits application. The ALJ may announce this decision at the end of the hearing. The ALJ may also want to study your case more.

You will receive written notice of this decision. If the ALJ rules in your favor, the notice will inform you of the amount of benefits. Soon after, you should start receiving your payments.

If your claim is denied, you can move on to the next stage of appeal. You can request review by the Social Security Appeals Council in Virginia. If you disagree with the Council’s decision, you can then file a complaint in the nearest U.S. District Court in North Carolina.

As you can see: The hearing is a crucial stage in your case. However, it is not the final stage.

Our North Carolina Lawyers Represent Applicants at SSD Hearings

The lawyers of Hardison & Cochran have extensive experience with representing clients at SSD hearings. We have a firm understanding of what it takes to prepare for these hearings. We also know how to present cases effectively before an ALJ. The head of our Social Security division, Jonathan Biser, is a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law.

Above all, we know how important the hearing is for your future. We will work professionally and passionately to seek the benefits you need.

To talk with a lawyer and receive a free consultation about your case, contact us today by phone or online. We will respond to you within 24 hours.

For More Information 

• What You Need to Know to Request a Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge, Social Security Administration

• Your Right to Representation, Social Security Administration

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