What To Expect at Your Disability Hearing
If your application for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits is denied twice – after your initial application and your request for reconsideration – you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You must make this request within 60 days (plus five days mailing time) after the date of your last denial.
If you have not been represented by a lawyer up to this point in your quest for disability benefits, the law firm of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., strongly suggests that you obtain representation right away.
Although disability hearings are informal proceedings, they can be intimidating for a person who has never attended one before.
Your lawyer can help you to know what to expect. Your lawyer can also make sure your case is thoroughly prepared for the hearing and that a solid presentation is made on your behalf.
When Will Your Disability Hearing Occur?
It can take several months or as long as a year for your disability hearing to be scheduled.
Don’t forget the date and time for your hearing. Arrive early on that date. If you are late or miss your hearing altogether, it could cost you dearly.
Where Will Your Disability Hearing Be Held?
Typically, your disability hearing will be held at your nearest Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). The SSA says this office should be within 75 miles of your home.
So, if you filed your application for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA) field offices in Anderson, Greenville, or Spartanburg in upstate South Carolina, your hearing would be at the ODAR office in Greenville. (The same ODAR office also handles appeals from the North Carolina SSA field offices in Franklin and Hendersonville as well as appeals from Greenwood).
In some cases, your hearing could be held by video unless you have specifically requested an in-person hearing.
Who Will Attend the Disability Hearing?
Attendance at your disability hearing will generally be limited to the following:
- ALJ (who acts as both judge and jury in your case)
- Court reporter (who will record and keep a transcript of the hearing)
- You and the lawyer representing you
- Expert witnesses (usually a medical expert and/or vocational expert)
- Any witness whose testimony you would like to present.
Unless they are witnesses, family, friends and former co-workers cannot attend the hearing.
How Will the Hearing Proceed?
How a hearing proceeds can differ from ALJ to ALJ. However, the hearing typically will involve:
- An opening statement of facts and review of the issues in your case
- Questions posed to you by the ALJ about your medical condition, your past or current employment and limitations that your condition has placed on your ability to work
- Medical and/or vocational expert opinion testimony
- Testimony of any witnesses you have brought to testify
- A closing statement made by you or by your attorney.
Because several months may pass between your request for the hearing and your hearing date, your lawyer can use the proceeding to provide updated medical information.
Keep in mind: This is not an adversarial proceeding. Nobody is on trial. The ALJ simply will be seeking information that will assist him or her in making a decision on your claim.
When Will You Know if Your Claim is Approved or Denied?
The ALJ could announce a decision at the conclusion of the hearing. However, the ALJ usually will wait several weeks or even months before issuing the approval or denial of your claim in writing. If your claim is denied, you will be able to appeal to the SSA Appeals Council in Virginia.
Talk to a Lawyer about Your Disability Hearing
As you can see, there are many details involved with SSD hearings and the period leading up to the hearing date.
It’s important to not only seek help from a lawyer who has experience with the SSD claims process but also one who is familiar with the customs and practices in upstate South Carolina. A local attorney, for instance, will know what evidence that the local ALJs will want to see in order to make a decision.
To learn more about how Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., can help you, contact us today. Our consultations are always free, and we charge nothing for our services unless your claim is ultimately approved.