What to Expect at Your Disability Hearing

Man on a wheelchair

When it’s time for your disability hearing with the Social Security Administration (SSA), it’s best if you are prepared beforehand for what to expect. If you’ve been waiting for months--or even years--for this day, then there’s good reason for you to be prepared in every way possible for success. 

In the United States, over 10 million people  receive a disability check from the SSA every month. Yet this is far fewer than those who apply. In fact, up to 70% of all cases are initially denied. Some are technical denials--meaning that there’s an error or lack of information in your claim. Others are denied based on the lack of medical evidence. By getting to your hearing, you are one step closer to receiving the benefits that you deserve.

Your hearing is your opportunity to talk about what’s happened in your life since you’ve been unable to work. You can share how your disability affects your life, what you can and cannot do, and the functional specifics about how your disability affects your ability to work and your family life. 

Here are some tips and facts about what’s to come in your hearing. 

Prepare Yourself.

What to wear? Although you certainly aren’t expected to arrive formally dressed, it is wise to wear plain clothing without any phrases or slogans on it. Wear something comfortable, by all means. You are not going to a job interview, you are going to an interview about your day-to-day functioning ability. 

In addition, get a good night’s sleep, take your prescribed medications, and arrive at least one hour early. This is the time to put your best foot forward, despite your disability. When it’s your turn to speak, be prepared. Practice in advance speaking about the debilitating aspects of your disability. The better prepared you are for your hearing, the more likely it is that the judge will understand how your conditions affect you functionally.

Follow the Rules of the Courtroom.

When you arrive, you’ll be checked through security. After clearing security, you’ll find yourself in the lobby of the hearing office. If your attorney is not in another hearing, they will find you in the lobby. Keep in mind that a disability hearing doesn’t look like what you may have seen on television--there is no jury, and the hearing itself will be private and without an audience. The only people present will be you, your attorney, the judge, the vocational expert, and the hearing reporter. 

Once the proceedings begin, don’t interrupt the judge. Follow the lead of your legal counsel, and speak clearly and directly when you are asked about your claim. In addition, be respectful of the judge, your attorney, and of the proceedings themselves. 

The Hearing.

The actual hearing consists of three parts: the legal formalities, the client’s statement, and vocational expert testimony. 

  • 1. Legal formalities--this part consists of your attorney’s opening statement and other legal issues deemed necessary by the court.
  • 2. Client testimony--the judge for your case and your attorney will ask questions regarding your limitations. This is your opportunity to discuss why you’re there, and how your disability prevents you from working and functioning normally on a day-to-day basis. 
  • 3. Vocational expert testimony--at this point, the vocational expert will classify your past 15 years of work history,  and then be asked by the judge to consider scenarios of a person’s work ability. Your attorney, if necessary, can cross-examine the vocational expert’s answers about their client’s work history, and work abilities. 

What’s Next?

After your hearing, you may feel a great sense of relief. Your attorney will let you know what to do next based on the specifics of your case. On average, most judges get a decision out within 2-4 months. The hearing offices are working on thousands of cases, and they do get very backlogged due to the demand. 

If your claim is approved for disability by the judge, you still must meet the non-medical requirements of disability. First, your back pay will be calculated, including your attorney’s fees. From there, you will receive a check for your back pay and then begin receiving your monthly benefits check if there are no outstanding issues to be addressed with the SSA.

Who Are We? 

We’re Affleck and Gordon, and we’re a firm dedicated to assisting disabled and injured people in Georgia. Tens of thousands of our clients receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with our team on their side. The only areas of law we practice are disability and injury related. By specializing in this area, we can better serve our clients with expertise and attention to detail. We want to help you and your family earn the benefits that can improve your quality of life and take care of basic needs every day. We’ve been fighting for the rights of the disabled and have assisted more than 25,000 people over our 45 years in practice, and we can help you too.

Additional Resources:

Our commitment to our clients sets us apart from others who do not specialize in this area. We specialize in winning SSI and SSDI for you. At our office, our beliefs about helping clients can be thought of as the following: You deserve an attorney who is professional and pleasant to work with, but who also cares about your case and is committed to representing you aggressively and zealously within the bounds of the law.

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