Know what to expect at your Social Security disability hearings

Know what to expect at your Social Security disability hearings

Many of our Washington Social Security disability clients are anxious and nervous about the process because they don’t know what to expect. This is a normal reaction because the process is very important to your future, and the various procedural stages of the Social Security claims process are different than things that you are likely to have experienced before.

A Social Security disability appeal hearing is not like the Washington State agency decision process

The first steps in the process of pursuing a Social Security disability claim are very cold and bureaucratic. You fill out your disability claim application and submit it to a Washington State agency for an initial determination. Your application is given to a claims examiner and that person makes a decision based only on that written application and the medical records that are submitted. The claims examiner does not talk to you or hear from your attorney other than by what is in the written file.

Most of the time, claims examiners deny disability applications.

As you pursue your claim, you eventually get to an appeal to an Administrative Law Judge at an appeals hearing, and the hearing is a much different process than what went on at the state agency determination.

The Administrative Law Judge will actually meet with you and your lawyer at the appeal hearing, and the judge will hear what you and your witnesses say about how your disability affects you. And most of the time the result is different because most of the time Administrative Law Judges grant Social Security disability benefits.

A Social Security disability appeal hearing is not like a court case

A Social Security disability hearing is very different from a court proceeding. The similarities are that both proceedings are run by a judge, and in both you can be represented by a lawyer. But otherwise they have little in common.

The Social Security disability hearing is not adversarial. That is, there is no opposing side. It is essentially just you, your attorney, and the Administrative Law Judge. There is no opposing attorney.

Furthermore, the atmosphere is very informal. The hearing is not in a courtroom, but in a plain room with a conference table. Furthermore, the strict procedural rules of court cases do not apply. The judge will talk to you in a casual and comfortable way. Many people even find that going to their disability hearing is a pleasant experience. I recommend Atlanta disability lawyer Bill Horton, visit his website here.

What takes place at the Social Security disability hearing

There is no set procedure for these hearings, but what usually happens is that the judge begins with an introduction that explains the hearing and reviews your claim.

The judge will then have you “swear in” with a promise to tell the truth when you testify. Different judges then do things slightly differently, so the sequence may vary, but at some point the judge will either ask you questions or ask your attorney to ask you questions.

The judge’s job is to learn about you and your disability, and when you are asked questions you want to give honest and complete answers. You should not exaggerate, but instead explain your situation as clearly and completely as you can.

The questions that the judge (or your attorney) will ask will probably be about:

  • Your age.
  • Your education.
  • Your job training and work experience.
  • Your medical history.
  • Your past and current treatment.
  • Your past and current symptoms.

If there are any witnesses at your hearing, the judge will also listen to their testimony. Witnesses could be either people that you bring who will testify for you (such as friends or family members), or special vocational or medical experts that the Administrative Law Judge might ask to testify.

Have an experienced Seattle Social Security disability lawyer helping you

The Social Security disability hearing is relatively informal. However, the entire process of pursuing a Social Security disability claim is complex and can be overwhelming. Having the help of an experienced Washington State disability lawyer will both increase your chances of success and provide you with peace of mind through the process.

If you are not already represented by a Marietta disability lawyer, consider asking for our evaluation of your claim. Give us a brief description of your claim using the form to the right, or you may e-mail us.

Seattle Social Security disability lawyers.