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SSDI Hearing what can I expect?

Unfortunately, if you are waiting for a Social Security Disability hearing you may have waited months or years to finally see a judge. The good news is the hearing may be your best chance to win SSDI benefits; the bad news is most claimants do not do enough preparation to make sure they are ready for the hearing. Recently on our disability forum a user asked, “If I have a hearing scheduled with the administrative law judge what can I expect to happen at my SSDI hearing?”


SSDI Hearing scheduled…now what?

If you have a hearing scheduled with an administrative law judge hopefully you have already talked to a disability lawyer and have received sound legal counsel. If not, it may be time to see if a lawyer can help you. Although you can represent yourself at a hearing, many claimants will benefit from legal counsel.

So what is the first step to prepare for the SSDI hearing? If you have an attorney they should be able to prep you for the hearing. Find out what types of questions you may be asked, discuss the pros and cons of your case, and make sure you understand how to prove you are disabled and cannot work.

What happens at the SSDI hearing?

Most hearings are scheduled to take place at a court house or county building. You will need to arrive early, dressed appropriately. Be kind and courteous to everyone. Attendees for your hearing will include a judge and your lawyer, if you have hired one. There is not a lawyer for the state, but the court may have a vocational expert and medical expert in attendance. A transcriber will also be present to document the SSDI proceedings.

The judge will begin the hearing by asking you some general questions: name, SS#, address, and educational background. The judge may also ask about your work history and your health condition. Keep in mind your answers should speak not only to your general health condition (prognosis and diagnosis), but also your limitations that keep you from working.

If you have hired a lawyer they will be allowed to provide information about your condition. Sometimes the judge will ask them questions directly; other times they may be allowed to simply provide evidence to support your case.

What if there is a vocational expert present at your SSDI hearing?

The vocational expert is considered an expert witness for the SSA. Their job is to provide information about the job availability in the current labor market and the skills needed to perform certain jobs. The vocational expert’s testimony can be critical to your case because they are providing evidence to the court about whether they believe you can work given your current health conditions and limitations.

The vocational expert will not only classify all your previous jobs to determine if they think you can do your past work, they will also testify whether they believe you have the transferable skills necessary to retrain for new work. If they believe you can retrain for new work they will testify that there are jobs you can do despite your impairments.

After the judge has heard your testimony, your lawyer’s statements, the vocational expert’s testimony, and your attorney’s rebuttal statements to the vocational expert they will make their disability determination. The approval or denial may be voiced at the hearing, but the official decision is not given until much letter via mail.