Knowing What to Expect Can Ease Your Mind
It can take a long time to get a Social Security Disability hearing. By the time the big day arrives, you may be nervous, excited or outright scared. Knowing what to expect can help make things easier. It can also help you and your attorney prepare for the SSD hearing so that things go smoothly.
Unlike regular court hearings, Social Security Disability hearings are more informal. You may just sit around a conference table with the people involved in your case. These people include the judge, a hearing assistant, you and your lawyer.
Depending on your case, expert witnesses may also be present at your hearing to help the judge gain a better understanding of your health and your ability to work. These may include vocational experts or medical experts.
The SSD Hearing: Looking at Things With a Fresh Perspective
Many people win their SSD cases at the hearing level. The Administrative Law Judge may look at your case with a fresh perspective, taking new facts into account to help make the decision. Your hearing is a chance for you to tell your story and be heard by someone right in front of you.
What Actually Happens at an SSD Hearing?
Everyone's experience is slightly different, but most people enter the hearing room and are directed to a chair around the hearing table. Everyone in the room is introduced. The judge may then read a short statement of the issues involved.
The judge will probably ask your lawyer if all the medical and work records in your case are complete. You should expect that your lawyer has diligently created a complete record of all medical issues relevant to your case. If your lawyer has done this and has no objections, the judge will swear you in and the hearing will begin.
Testifying: Telling Your Story
During your hearing, you will be asked to tell the judge — to testify — about your situation. You may be asked to speak about a range of things:
- Your age
- Your education level
- Whether or not you are married
- Whether you live in a home or an apartment
- Past work you have performed
- What that work involved (activities such as lifting, carrying, sitting)
- Your medical problems
- Activity limitations
Most judges want to make a fair decision. They will treat you with dignity and respect, but they expect that you will be truthful. They expect you to be very specific and to remember all of the details about what you can and cannot do, as well as what types of pain you have and how it affects your life.
After listening to your testimony, the administrative law judge may ask the expert witnesses to testify. The judge will ask them questions and will give your attorney an opportunity to ask questions as well.
Receiving a Decision in Your SSD Case
Many people are disappointed to learn that, in most cases, you will not receive a decision at the end of your hearing. The judge usually takes time to think about your case and to draft a written decision. You can expect this decision in four to six weeks, although it sometimes takes longer.
One of the best ways to increase your chances of receiving a favorable decision is to work with an experienced lawyer. SSD attorney Cynthia Berger has dedicated her entire career to representing people with physical and mental impairments in Social Security Disability matters. To talk with her about your Social Security Disability hearing, contact attorney Cynthia Berger and her support staff at our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, law office.