Social Security Disability hearings are very different from the action-packed, theatrical trials often shown on television and in movies. In this case there are no juries, defense, or prosecution arguing the case on either side. The hearing does not have a jury, but usually only consists of: the claimant (you), the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the representative, and a vocational expert. Those in attendance have been provided with the claimant’s medical history well in advance and are familiar with his or her conditions. The representative’s job is to ask the client questions that will illustrate to the judge the severity of his or her limitations and inability to work. This testimonial evidence may be challenged or probed further by the judge who may ask follow-up questions as well. Social Security Disability hearings can differ slightly from claimant to claimant. In some instances, ALJ’s ask the claimant many clarifying questions and other times the claimant receives questioning entirely from their own representative.
The vocational expert is someone who offers testimony about the various jobs in the national economy and the degrees of limitation that are required for disability to be established. The vocational expert testifies and is questioned by the representative to determine the claimant’s level of ability or inability to work. After the hearing is conducted, the ALJ will consider all the evidence that has been presented through testimony and medical records and will make a decision granting or denying the claimant disability benefits. Some helpful hints for attending your hearing are:
- Speak with your representative before hand to become comfortable with his questions and your answers.
- Be honest, don’t try to invent impairments you don’t have; rather elaborate on the severity and limiting nature of those you do have.
- If your impairment requires you to stand, sit, or adjust yourself periodically be sure to do so during the hearing if needed. Everyone will understand if you need to stand for a moment.
- Make sure you’ve given your representative all the medical records you may have. The smallest piece of evidence can sometimes change the entire outcome of a case.