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What Are Social Security Disability Hearings Like?

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You have been waiting a year or more for your social security disability hearing and now it is finally here. It can be a nerve-wracking experience, so let  social security lawyers describe the basic setting of a disability hearing.

Before your hearing, you will receive a letter in the mail called the Notice of Hearing. This notice will outline when and where your hearing will take place. Social Security Disability hearings are administrative hearings, meaning they are not in a formal courtroom at the local courthouse. Rather, they typically take place either in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR) or at the Field Office. Occasionally, the hearing will take place in a hotel or other commercial establishment rented by Social Security. The ODAR only handles disability claims and the Field Office is where the normal business of Social Security takes place (i.e. getting new social security numbers or changing your name). Be sure to double-check the address on the Notice of Hearing so you go to the right place on the day of your hearing.

You notice will give you the name of your Administrative Law Judge. Your judge will be available either in-person or via video-teleconference (VTC). You have the right to an in-person hearing, but in some remote areas, an in-person hearing may delay your case for several months.

Besides you and the judge, the room will also have a hearing monitor, or a person to make sure that there is an accurate recording of the hearing. The hearing monitor records the hearing, which is then transcribed. Social Security does not keep the actual recording.

The notice will also explain whether the judge is calling expert witnesses. Typically, the judge will have a vocational witness available for questioning after your testimony. The vocational witness is opining whether you personally could work, but rather, answering hypothetical questions from the judge about what someone with your kinds of limitations could do for work. The judge may also call a medical expert. This person will usually be available over the phone and will have reviewed your medical records before the hearing. This person will give an opinion about what your limitations are without having ever examined you based on the medical records.

You can also call your own witnesses. However, the judge primarily wants to hear from you and he or she may get frustrated if you call too many personal witnesses.

If you need help determining whether an in-person hearing or VTC hearing is right for you, cross-examining expert witnesses, or submitting evidence to the judge, please contact us for a free consultation.