What will happen at my Social Security Disability benefits hearing?
You can expect to have an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) review all of the evidence in your file and hear testimony from witnesses. Because the ALJ will decide whether to approve or deny your claim, it will be crucial to make sure your case is thoroughly prepared prior to this hearing date.
You can expect the hearing to be held at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) that is located nearest to you. Check out the SSA’s ODAR Office Locator to see where this may be in North Carolina. Where your hearing will be held will determine how long you may have to wait for the hearing to be put on the calendar.
You will not be going into a formal courtroom. It will be held in a hearing room. There will be a judge, clerk and experts in the room. Unless they are witnesses, your friends and family cannot attend the hearing.
There will be an opening statement about the facts and issues involved in your case.
The ALJ will then ask you questions. Each judge has his or her own list of questions and style of asking them. However, most judges are trying to get the same information. The judges want to know how your impairment affects your ability to work. He or she will ask you about your daily activities, how much pain you experience and generally how your impairment affects you. You will need to have yourself prepared to answer these questions as clearly as possible.
Additionally, a vocational and/or medical expert may testify. A vocational expert is an individual who has special knowledge about many different types of jobs. He or she will testify about how much strength, education and intelligence is required for particular jobs, what jobs exist and how many positions of a particular job exist in the national economy.
You may also present witnesses on your behalf. If someone testifies about your condition, it is best if that person is not a close friend or family member since the ALJ would expect such a person to be biased. However, if your condition is such that you are unable to describe the effects, then a family member would be the best witness to describe your condition.
The hearing will then end with closing statements.
The ALJ’s job will be to make a fair and impartial decision, based on all the evidence in your case, as to whether or not you are disabled. Although you may feel like the judge is “on the other side” during your hearing, you should note that the SSA technically does not have any representation at the hearing.
For more details, please see our page on what happens at Social Security Disability hearings.