The hearing portion of your SSDI or SSI claim can be incredibly stressful. Throughout the process you are being asked personal questions about how your condition affects your life and now you will be expected to answer those same questions again; but this time, you’re in front of a judge.
The important thing to remember is to be completely honest. You have made it this far in the process because your condition truly affects your daily life and you need the benefits.
The hearing is relatively short; it lasts anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour. Be sure to be on time.
The individuals who will be at your hearing include: the administrative law judge, a vocational expert, a hearing reporter, medical expert (sometimes), and your lawyer (if you choose to have one).
The case will typically begin with the judge’s questions. The judge will start with your basic information (name, age, address) and will steadily ask more in depth questions about your life. Eventually, they will ask about your past jobs and why you unable to return to work.
The administrative judge has reviewed your claim. They will hear the testimony of the present parties and will give the final ruling on your case. The hearing reporter is only there to record the case. The vocational expert will give their opinion about the work you are able to perform with your disability (or if you are unable to work altogether).
The judge will question the vocational expert first and then your attorney will get an opportunity to cross exam. They will ask you question about your skills and whether someone with your impairment could still do your old job.
The vocational expert will then state what jobs individuals with your disability are capable of performing. There are several situations based on hypotheticals and your attorney will try to get the vocational expert to conclude that there are no jobs for you to do.
The medical expert is called by the judge and is an independent factor in your case. They are there to give their expert opinion on the limitations of the impairments you are claiming and they also determine whether your impairment is catalogued. They will also be asked if your impairment qualifies as a listed level impairment.
By now you have already answered these questions repeatedly. Make sure you stay consistent. Practice describing your disability and how if affects your life. The more specific you are the better. The judge is trying to evaluate your mental and physical state.
Your testimony must be sincere. In order to offer honest answers, you need to give thought to your limitations before the trial. Sit down and write down symptoms and experiences where you’ve felt hindered because of your disability. This will be a good reminder when you are in front of the judge.
Although you are not required to have an attorney, it is usually a good idea at the hearings. When it is time to cross exam the vocational expert, an attorney will offer their expertise in social security law.