Many of our clients are nervous about their Social Security Disability hearing because they don’t know what to expect. At the Osterhout Berger Disability Law, we make sure our clients know exactly what to expect and are fully prepared for their Social Security Disability hearing.
Our attorneys and staff have over 50 years of combined experience and we have handled over 30,000 Social Security Disability claims. All we do is Disability cases, and we are very good at our jobs. To assist you in having a general understanding of what happens in a Social Security Disability hearing, we are pleased to provide the following information. Of course, every hearing is dependent on your specific facts, so we recommend contacting an experienced SSD lawyer.
To discuss your situation and for assistance in preparing for your Social Security Disability hearing, please schedule a free consultation with our SSD attorney by calling us at 412-794-8003 (locally in the Pittsburgh area) or toll free at 1-866-438-8773 (outside the Pittsburgh calling area).
What Happens at the Social Security Disability Hearing?
Social Security Disability hearings are not very formal; the biggest difference between these hearings, and anything you have seen on television (or in a real courtroom if you have been in one), is that there is no lawyer who represents Social Security. Therefore, there is no one in the hearing room who tries to trick or trap you, or make you say things that you really do not mean to say. This is the not the judge’s job, either: His or her job is to give you a fair opportunity to tell your side of the story.
You will give your testimony under oath by answering questions put to you by the judge and your disability attorney, if you have one. When answering questions, it is very important to keep a few simple rules in mind: First, your answers to questions should always be direct and short. If you limit your answers to the question being asked, this makes the hearing far less confusing for the judge and easier for you, because all you have to worry about is answering one question at a time. What you will find is that by the time all the questions are asked, you will have had a chance to say everything that you can say to assist in presenting your case, and if something is overlooked (as will occasionally happen) the last question to you will always be whether there is something else that you needed to say.
Another helpful rule for answering questions is to make sure that you listen to them carefully and be sure that you understand each question before you answer it. If you do not understand or hear a question, then feel free to say so. Assuming you understand the question (which you probably will), then it is important to make sure that you actually know the answer. If you are unsure about an answer, or if you simply do not know the answer to a question, then please do not hesitate to say so. The hearing is not an attempt to trick you or to make you say things that you are not sure about. If there is some piece of information (for instance a date) that is important, the judge will sometimes ask for documentation after the hearing of some important date or other important piece of information you were unable to provide at the hearing.
A vocational expert or medical expert may also be present at your hearing. These experts do not examine you and rarely even speak to you directly, but instead are asked to provide information about the medical and vocational issues in your case that will assist the judge in making a decision.
It may also be helpful for you to know that the hearing is not necessarily the last thing that happens in a Social Security case. While it is extremely rare for a second hearing to be scheduled, it is fairly common for additional evidence or documentation to be submitted after the hearing. The most common type of information that is submitted after the hearing is up-to-date medical records from your physicians.
Another way that Social Security hearings are different from Courtroom TV or other types of legal cases is that a decision is not made on the day of the hearing. You can reasonably expect to receive a decision in your case somewhere between two and four months after the hearing. This is a written decision that takes time to prepare (unlike the two-page form letter you received when your case was denied initially), especially when you consider that most judges hold between 35 and 50 hearings a month.
In general, of course, the judge is either going to award or deny you benefits. If benefits are awarded, then the next step will be for Social Security to calculate your past due benefits and begin paying you your monthly benefits. Again, the amount of time this takes varies widely but, ordinarily, your first monthly check will arrive approximately six weeks after a favorable decision, and your past due benefits can take two to three months.
If the judge denies your claim, you have appeal rights (see our Pursuing a Denied Claim page).
For assistance with your hearing or for additional information about Social Security Disability law, please to schedule a free confidential consultation by calling us at 412-794-8003 (locally in the Pittsburgh area) or toll free at 1-866-438-8773 (outside the Pittsburgh calling area). If you prefer, you can fill out our intake form, and an experienced lawyer will contact you to schedule an appointment.