What To Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing

By Kenton Koszdin Law Office on May 29, 2023 | In Social Security Disability

Social Security Disability Hearing: What to Expect

What is a disability hearing? It is a judicial proceeding where a Social Security disability judge reviews your case to decide whether you are eligible for Social Security benefits. These hearings occur after a claim for disability benefits and reconsideration of benefits have both been denied.

Although disability hearings are not quite as intense as court proceedings, the future of your benefits is on the line. As such, it is important to have an experienced Los Angeles disability attorney representing you.

Where Will My Social Security Hearing Take Place? 

social security disability hearings

Your Social Security disability hearing will be presided over by a disability judge, but it will not take place in a courtroom. Instead, it will be held in a conference room or office, and the judge may or may not be wearing a robe. Hearings are also held remotely by phone or using the video conference app, MS Teams if necessary.

The actual city of your hearing will depend on where you reside. You will attend your hearing at an office close to your home. There are several locations in the Los Angeles area that serve residents, including Downtown Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, and Long Beach.

Who Will Attend the Disability Hearing? 

disability hearing questions

Social Security disability hearings are not held in open court or open to the public. Hence, the only parties typically in attendance at an administrative law judge disability hearing are the judge, the person appealing the denial of their benefits, that person’s representative or attorney, and a court reporter.

In some cases, a vocational expert may be in attendance. Their job is to help the judge determine whether there are jobs that the appellant can reasonably perform in light of their disability. Additionally, a medical expert (ME) may also be present. The ME will help the judge understand the medical nature of your disability in complex cases.

A witness may also appear at the hearing, but it is uncommon for them to do so.

What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing? 

social security disability hearing

The Social Security hearing process may vary slightly from judge to judge but will typically begin with the identification of all parties in the room. Once this formality is complete, the following steps will take place in your SSDI hearing:

  • The judge will question you: The questions will address your medical issues, including the treatment you received and the nature of your disability. The judge will also inquire into your educational background, employment record, and the effect the disability has had on your life. It is important to fully and truthfully discuss these matters with the judge;
  • Your attorney speaks on your behalf: Your lawyer will make statements and presentations that bolster your case and help the judge understand why you should be granted benefits;
  • Expert witnesses will speak: Vocational and medical experts will present information regarding your condition and your ability to work;
  • The judge may ask you more questions: After hearing and reviewing the evidence presented thus far, the judge may have more questions for you. Again, it is important to answer these questions truthfully and to the best of your ability;
  • The judge makes a decision: After hearing from all parties and weighing the available evidence, the judge will issue a ruling. In rare cases, judges release their decisions during their Social Security disability hearings. However, in most cases, the judge will issue a written decision, which will be mailed to you and your attorney. You can expect to receive the decision within three to four weeks after the hearing concludes.

What You Will Testify to at Your SSI Disability Hearing

social security hearing

At your Social Security Administration disability hearing, the judge will start by asking you basic questions about your background, including:

  • Your full name;
  • Your height and weight;
  • Your education level.

The next disability hearing questions will focus on your work background, such as:

  • Are you employed?
  • Have you attempted to work since your disability began?
  • What happened during your unsuccessful attempts at working?
  • What was your employment before the onset of your disability, and what jobs did you have before that?
  • Why did you terminate your employment at your past jobs?

The judge will then ask you questions about your medical condition, such as:

  • What is your disability, and how does it affect your ability to work?
  • How long have you been disabled?
  • When did the disability begin?
  • What has it been like living with the disability?

How to Prepare for Disability Court Hearings

what to expect at a disability hearing

Because you are hoping for the judge to rule in your favor, it is important to show up to your hearing prepared. With advanced preparation, you will increase the odds of the administrative law judge ruling in your favor.

Properly preparing for a Social Security disability hearing includes completing at least five steps:

  • Reviewing your file: You need to be thoroughly familiar with every aspect of your application and communications with the SSA before attending your hearing. With consistent and knowledgeable answers, your request to overturn a denial is more likely to be granted;
  • Creating a cheat sheet: A cheat sheet is an easily referenced document or set of documents that will allow you to quickly and thoroughly answer the judge’s questions;
  • Gathering recent medical records: Recent medical records play a vital role in your appeal. Submit them to the SSA before your hearing so the judge will have them at ready;
  • Obtaining a written doctor’s statement: A doctor’s statement regarding your disability is crucial for a successful appeals process. The more recent the statement, the better;
  • Hiring an attorney: Nothing can take the place of an experienced Social Security disability lawyer who can use their knowledge and experience to fight for your interests.

Helpful Social Security Disability Hearing Tips

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Although the judge will ultimately decide your case based on the evidence and how it is presented, there are a few SSI hearing tips that you can follow to help ensure that the hearing goes your way.

  • Dress appropriately: There is no mandated dress code for these hearings. However, you should make every effort to show up in clean and appropriate clothing. A casual dress is usually fine;
  • Arrive on time: Showing up on time demonstrates that you have respect not only for the process but also for the other parties in attendance. Conversely, tardiness leads others to believe that you do not value their time;
  • Be courteous: If you are wondering how to answer questions at a disability hearing, you should know that being courteous goes a long way. A polite and respectful demeanor can work wonders for your case, whereas combativeness and disrespect can lead to unfavorable disability hearing results;
  • Tell the truth: Always answer the judge truthfully. If you are unsure about a response, tell the judge so, but never invent answers. Doing so will adversely affect your case;
  • Prepare with your lawyer: Prepare beforehand with your attorney so you are familiar and comfortable with the hearing process.

Let a Social Security Disability Lawyer Help You!

There is a lot at stake during a Social Security disability hearing. If you are fighting to receive benefits, you deserve to have the experience and skill of a Los Angeles Social Security disability lawyer on your side throughout the entire appeals process.

If you have received a denial at the reconsideration stage, reach out to a disability attorney from the Kenton Koszdin Law Office for a free evaluation of your case today.


What are the signs that you won your SSDI hearing?

If the judge at your hearing only asks you a few questions, it could be a sign that you have won your case. Another sign you may have won is if the judge decides to issue a bench decision, which is a ruling made on the spot.

What are the signs that you lost your disability hearing?

One sign that you have lost your hearing is that the judge expresses skepticism of your claim or testimony. An incomplete record or your disability lawyer showing concern after the hearing can also indicate that you have lost.

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