At the hearing, your case will be heard by a United States Administrative Law Judge either in person or by video. This judge is who will decide your claim. The hearing will be held in a conference room, not a courtroom or courthouse. Other people in the hearing include a court reporter, a vocational expert, and perhaps a medical expert. The judge will have reviewed your medical records and any medical opinions prior to the hearing.

Does the Government Have an Attorney Arguing Against Me?

Social Security does not have a government attorney argue against the claim, but the judge needs to look at the case from both angles—disabled and not disabled.

How Long Will the Disability Hearing Take?

The hearing will take approximately 60 minutes depending on the judge, the complexity of the case, and other factors. The judge will ask you questions during the hearing. Each judge has a different style of questioning.

What Sort of Questions Will I Be Asked During the Hearing?

Topics covered during your testimony will include:

  • Your age, education, marital status, and living arrangements.
  • The date you last worked and the reason you stopped work.
  • A review of all your work for the last 15 years with dates for each job, the physical requirements for each job, the technical or skill requirements for each job and why the job ended.
  • The discussion of your medical conditions will include your symptoms, treatment and work limitations. You will be asked about each one of your medical problems individually with questions about how long you have had the problem, what doctors you have seen for the problem and how the problem affects your day-to-day functioning as well as your ability to perform work-related activities such as walking, standing, sitting, bending, climbing, crawling, lifting and carrying and using your arms and hands.
  • If one of the conditions that affect your ability to work is a mental impairment, you will be asked to explain how the mental impairment affects your ability to think, concentrate, socialize and perform other mental functions.
  • There will also be a discussion of activities of daily living and how your medical condition interferes with you from having a normal day.
  • The judge will want to know why you can’t return to your past work and why you can’t perform other work.

Are Doctors and Other Experts Allowed to Offer Their Opinion of My Disability?

Once you’re done talking, a medical expert may testify in person or by phone. The medical expert has never examined you; the expert will have only reviewed your medical records. The judge will ask the medical expert questions. The medical expert will offer opinions about work limitations and the severity of the medical conditions.

Finally, a vocational expert will testify. The judge will ask the vocational expert if an individual could work with the limitations the judge believes you have. Sometimes the judge believes that you are as limited as you say, other times the judge may not believe you are that limited. Either way, the vocational expert will respond if there are any jobs that exist with the limitations described by the judge.

When Do I Find Out If I'm Approved for Benefits?

Usually, you will not receive a decision at the hearing. More typically, your decision will be in writing and will take from 30 to 60 days from the date of your hearing to receive. The length of time you have to wait for a decision can vary greatly from one judge to another.

A copy of the decision will be mailed to you.

Download Our Free Guidebook to Social Security Disability Claims to Learn More About the Benefits Approval Process

This is an excerpt from our free book: 5 Deadly Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Social Security Disability Case. (And How to Avoid Them). This is the #1 guide to what you need to know about Social Security disability. If you or someone you care about is thinking about applying for Social Security disability or you have been turned down by Social Security download this free resource to learn how to build the most successful claim.

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska