A disability hearing represents the best chance to get your SSDI or SSI claim approved - so you must be prepared. The Hearing is an opportunity for you and your disability representative to present your case to the Administrative Law Judge. The judge uses the Hearing to evaluate the merits of your claim and to make a decision about whether you meet Social Security’s definition of being disabled. The judge uses the same 5-step sequential evaluation that was used by the Disability Determination Service (DDS) Examiner at the Initial Application and Reconsideration levels of your claim. So, the questions from the judge generally follow the 5-step sequential evaluation process. Sometimes, they want to “get to know you” and will ask questions unrelated to the 5-step sequential evaluation, but the main questions relate directly or indirectly to this evaluation. The judge will also be assessing your credibility by determining whether your testimony is consistent with your medical evidence. For example, if you complain of severe back pain and the inability to walk, but your MRIs indicate no issue with your back and no limitation on your ability to walk, the claim is going to be difficult to get approved. On the other hand, if you testify that your breathing problems make it really hard for you to exert yourself, and your medical records indicate a degree of severity associated with your COPD that is consistent with your allegations, your claim will be considered credible.
You are granted a Hearing if your Initial Application for disability benefits is denied and appealed, and if your Reconsideration appeal is also denied and appealed. So, the Disability Hearing is the culmination of your disability claim. This is the first time in the disability claims process that you actually meet with someone from the Social Security Administration in person. SSA is required to provide at least 20 days’ notice of your Hearing date, time and location, but more commonly you are given about 60 days' notice. Most Hearings are scheduled no more than 75 miles from your home and they are generally conducted at an Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). These ODAR offices are often co-located with your local Field Office (for example with the Field Office on the ground floor and the ODAR office on the 2nd floor), but they also can be in an entirely separate building miles away.
The Hearing itself is an informal meeting that generally does not last longer than one hour. In fact, most Hearings are done in 30 minutes. There are at least three people present at the Hearing, the judge, you (the claimant) and a court reporter. Additional people present may include your disability representative (if you have one), a Medical Expert (ME) (if the judge requests one), a Vocational Expert (VE) (if the judge requests one), and any witnesses who may be present. Most people do not have witnesses, because the judge generally does not assign much weight to what they have to say. If you have a neighbor, a former employer, a former colleague, a spouse, etc., their perspective may be interesting, and you and they may view it as important, but it is simply nowhere near as important as what your medical records say!
How a Social Security Attorney Can Help
Whether you’re preparing your first SSDI application, submitting your claim for Reconsideration or appealing a rejected claim, you have a greater chance of success with the help of a knowledgeable lawyer.
Attorneys at Kalfus & Nachman PC understand the complex SSDI application process and the information necessary to receive approval while maximizing the financial support you need for your condition. We also have a thorough knowledge of the appeals process and can help you assemble the additional information necessary to bolster your claim if you’ve been denied.
If you live in the Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach or Roanoke, Virginia, areas and need assistance filing your SSDI application or making an appeal, please contact Kalfus & Nachman PC by phone at (855) 880-8163 or through the form on this page to schedule a free consultation.