The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) application process can be complicated and frustrating. Far too often claimants think they're a shoo-in for benefits, only to find themselves among the two-thirds of applicants denied in the initial stage—or the nearly 90 percent of claimants denied at the reconsideration level.
Sound familiar? Not to worry, O'Connor Law PLLC's team of highly-skilled Social Security disability attorneys are here to help you understand and prepare for the next step of the appeals process: your Social Security disability hearing.
Why a Hearing May Be Necessary
A disability hearing is the third step in the SSDI appeals process, following the denial of your initial application and the denial of your reconsideration request. The purpose of the hearing is to determine just how disabling your condition is. If you can't return to your previous job, can you achieve substantial gainful employment (SGA) in any other type of position?
The idea of attending a legal hearing can be intimidating, but the actual hearing itself doesn't have to be. We'll work with you to ensure you're thoroughly prepared—and the odds are in your favor. Statistically, SSDI hearings are a claimant's best chance of being approved for benefits.
Where Your Hearing Will Be Held
Social Security disability hearings aren't held in a typical courtroom setting, so if you envisioned yourself being grilled on the stand like a scene from a legal drama, you can breathe a sigh of relief. These hearings are usually held in a non-intimidating, conference room before an Administrative Law Judge who may—or may not—even be wearing traditional robes.
In addition to you, your attorney or representative, and the Administrative Law Judge, other parties in attendance at an SSDI hearing may include a court reporter, medical experts, vocational experts, and other witnesses. However, Social Security disability hearings aren't open to the public, so if you bring a friend or family member for moral support, they'll have to stay in the waiting room until the hearing is finished.
During the Hearing
After swearing you in and identifying everyone in the room for the record, the judge will read a basic statement about your SSDI case and then ask you a number of questions regarding your past employment, your disability, and whether you're able to perform daily self-care and work-related tasks. Examples of commonly asked questions include:
- How long can you sit?
- How much can you lift?
- How long can you walk (without needing a break)?
- Can you read and write?
- Are you in pain? Can you rate your pain on a scale from 1 to 10?
- Do you take medications? Are there side effects?
- Do you need help dressing and bathing? What about cleaning, shopping, or cooking?
- Do you have to rest during the day? How often and for how long?
Stay calm, take your time, answer honestly, and don't exaggerate or embellish. Don't worry; we'll make sure you're well prepared for anything the judge might ask. Also, keep in mind that this isn't a showdown between you and the Administrative Law Judge. Their job is to gather the evidence necessary to make a determination whether you qualify for SSDI benefits—not prove that you aren't disabled.
Next, the judge and your attorney will question expert witnesses. Depending on the complexity of the claim, the hearing could take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or longer.
Waiting for a Decision
A judge could issue a bench decision—essentially letting you know right on the spot whether they'll rule in your favor. However, in most cases, you can expect to receive a decision by mail in three to four weeks.
We're Ready to Put Our Skills to Work for You
At O'Connor Law PLLC, we've helped countless individuals with disabilities obtain the SSDI benefits they need and deserve. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation to discuss your SSDI claim with a member of our legal team.