The hearing process begins after the denial of an initial and reconsideration claim. A hearing request must be filed within 60 days after Social Security notifies the claimant of its decision. The request for hearing can be filed for Title II Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability or both. The hearing will be conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who had no part in the initial decision or the reconsideration of the case. At a hearing, you will have the opportunity to tell your story to an ALJ. The ALJ will question you and any witnesses you bring. Other witnesses, such as medical or vocational experts, also may be present. Typically, social security disability hearings are fairly short and can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour.
At the hearing, the ALJ) has a Vocational Expert (VE) testify about the kinds of jobs that are available in the economy, and how workplace limitations affect claimant’s ability to perform those jobs. Basically, the Vocational Expert answers two questions for the judge (phrased as hypothetical questions below):
- Can the claimant still perform any of the jobs he/she has done over the last 15 years?
- Can the claimant still perform any other jobs which exist in substantial numbers in the national economy?
The ALJ uses the Vocational Expert’s answers to decide if you can still work (and therefore, whether you are disabled). This makes the Vocational Expert’s role extremely important!
We do not recommend you to go to a hearing without a representative. A representative can look at your case and determine why you were denied initially and make your case stronger so that you can prevail at the hearing. A disability specialist can determine if all the medical evidence that is relevant and helpful to your claim is in your Social Security file and if there is evidence that is not in your file, your representative will help you obtain this evidence. A representative analyzes all the information in your file and presents a theory of your case as to why you are disabled according to SSA rules. Social Security disability representatives have the experience to know how to cross examine your testimony and any experts at the hearing to help you succeed in receiving benefits.