Many claimants are understandably nervous about attending a disability benefits hearing for SSDI & SSI. There is a lot at stake, and it can be intimidating going in front of a Judge. This article will give you a brief overview of the hearing process, and some tips on how to be successful. We also present a video of an example hearing, so you can see what one is really like. Below, we have a list of Frequently Asked Questions (and answers!) to get you up to speed on what you need to know.
Getting Your Hearing Started Right
Whether your hearing is in-person at an SSA office or being held virtually over phone or video, the first step is being on-time. If you miss your hearing, it could take months to reschedule or worse, the Judge can dismiss your case entirely and you will have to start over with a new application. If you are travelling to your hearing, please make sure that you have a reliable ride, that you know the address, and give yourself enough time to account for traffic, bad weather, and parking. You must also bring a valid form of identification with you, as you will be required to pass through security when entering the hearing location.
Inside the Hearing Room (It’s Not Like a TV Courtroom Drama)
Hearings are typically held in relatively small rooms, which look more like conference rooms than courtrooms. Usually, the only people in the room are the Judge and his or her assistant, your representative, and any witnesses who might testify. Witnesses can include anyone you have brought along to testify on your behalf, such as your doctor, social worker, friends, or family. Other witnesses can include vocational experts or medical experts that have been called to testify by the Judge. The hearings can last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or more.
Testimony, Questions, and Answers
The most important part of the hearing is your testimony. One of the main functions of the hearing is to allow the Judge to see and hear from you directly about how your conditions affect your day to day activities and ability to work. Both the Judge and your representative will have the opportunity to ask you questions. Many claimants are nervous about this aspect of the hearing process, but you shouldn’t be. This is your chance to tell your story to the Judge, in your own words. The advocates at Citizens Disability will spend as much time as you need going over your testimony before the hearing so that you are fully prepared and comfortable with the questions you might be asked.
After The Hearing
Judges typically do not make a decision to award or deny the claim at the conclusion of the hearing. In most cases, there is a period of several weeks or months following the hearing during which the Judge considers the evidence and testimony given at the hearing. While it can be difficult to wait for a final decision on your claim, this post-hearing period also affords your advocate the opportunity to gather additional evidence and even draft legal briefs addressing issues which may have arisen at the hearing.
Once the Judge has considered all of the evidence, testimony, and legal arguments submitted by your representative, a final decision on your claim will be sent in the mail within 2 to 3 months of the hearing.
See What a SSDI Hearing Is Like
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to attend the hearing?
It is very important for you to go to your hearing, so if you will have any trouble attending please let us know as soon as possible. If you do not go to the hearing, the judge has the option of dismissing your claim. Rest assured that a Legal Partner from our office will be with you at the hearing and will help present your claim to the judge.
Who will be at the hearing?
There are three people who will always be at the hearing: you, the Legal Partner from our office, and the judge. Beyond that, the judge may also have a clerk, and may ask for a Medical Expert or Vocational Expert to be present to give testimony.
What should I wear?
We recommend clean, business casual attire for the hearing.
When will I speak to the Hearing Team to prepare for the hearing?
Our Medical Records team will reach out to you 2-3 months prior to your hearing to perform a medical audit of your file. Once your audit is completed, the Hearing Team of advocates and attorneys from our home office will contact you in the week before the hearing. They’ll answer any questions you may still have and prepare you to go before the judge.
When will I meet the Legal Partner who will represent me at the hearing?
The Legal Partner will contact you a day or two before the hearing to answer any final questions you may have. They’ll meet you at the hearing location an hour before the hearings, so please make sure to arrive an hour early.
Should I bring anything with me?
Please make sure to bring a current photo ID to the hearing. This can be a valid driver’s license, passport, or military ID. In addition, we also recommend bringing a list of your current medications.
Can I bring someone with me to the hearing?
Unless the judge specifically asks you to bring someone, they will not allow anyone else to be present for the hearing. If you have friend or family members who wish to speak on your behalf, we recommend that they write letters about your conditions and send those letters to our office.
How long will the hearing take?
The amount of time a hearing takes can vary, but on average it lasts about an hour.
And finally, as always, please let us know about any recent doctor visits or if you receive any mail from Social Security.
If you have any further questions about the hearing or your claim, you can contact us at 1-877-678-0935 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Citizens Disability, LLC:
Since 2010, Citizens Disability has been America’s premier Social Security Disability institution. Our services include helping people in applying for SSDI benefits, managing the process through Reconsideration, and representing people in person at their Hearing, and if necessary, bringing their case to the Appeals Council. Our mission is to give a voice to the millions of Americans who are disabled and unable to work, helping them receive the Social Security Disability benefits to which they may be entitled. Learn more about us and disability benefits like SSDI & SSI or give us a call (800)492-3260.
Citizens Disability is committed to helping keep people safe from fraud. We will never ask for personal details to start an SSDI application over Facebook or social media. We will only ask for certain details, in private messages, to confirm the identity of a client in a customer service situation. The only way to begin an SSDI application with us is on the phone, through a number found on our website, or one of our clearly-marked advertisements. Please keep your personal details safe, don't share them in a public forum, or with individuals who solicit your information.