What to Expect and How to Prepare for Your Social Security Disability Hearing
The pressure is on. Your Social Security Disability hearing has finally been scheduled after waiting at least a year for it (the average wait time for a hearing in 2013 is 378 days) and now you’re wondering what to expect.
You probably didn’t expect, way back when you first applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), to be denied disability benefits in the first place. That’s really not that big a surprise if you consider that nearly 65 percent of initial SSDI applications were denied in 2012.
Clearly, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has a strict disability approval policy. If you’re at this point in the process, it’s because SSA so far hasn’t agreed with your medical reasons for not being able to work.
The Judge is Interested in You
Now the challenge will be to convince the judge at your hearing why you deserve disability benefits. So, if you’re feeling nervous that’s perfectly normal. After all, this could very well be your last chance.
It may help calm your jitters to know that the administrative law judge (ALJ) presiding over your case wants to be fair with you, and wants to hear your side of the story. The best you can do is to be prepared.
Answering the Questions
You will already be at an advantage if you’ve been working with a Freedom Disability Advocate throughout the appeals process. At this point in the waiting game, you both have fostered a close relationship. He or she knows everything about your case and is in the best position to guide you on how to answer the judge’s questions about your skills, education, past jobs, daily activities, physical limitations and symptoms. Answering all questions as honestly, directly and completely as possible will help the judge understand that yes, you can’t work and yes, you do deserve disability benefits.
Not a Courtroom Drama
It may also be a relief to know that the hearing you’ve waited a year for probably won’t take that long. On average, it takes about 20 minutes to an hour and it won’t be as dramatic as a TV courtroom show.
Most likely you’ll meet the judge in a small conference room, and you’ll all be sitting together at a table. It will just be you, your Freedom Disability attorney/advocate, the judge, and maybe an assistant to the judge and/or subject matter expert. You can also bring a few of your own witnesses, if you need them, though they can’t answer questions for you. Your disability story must come directly from you. Remember to be yourself. Be natural, focused and honest.
Unless the judge makes a bench decision right then and there, which is rare, expect to wait another two to four more months to know if you’ve been awarded benefits.
For more disability hearing tips, please read Freedom Disability’s article “What Will Happen at My Social Security Disability Hearing?”