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Many people who are fighting their social security disability claims on their own without the assistance of an SSD attorney or advocate ask us “what happens at my hearing?” This question is very common because most people have no idea what a hearing is like and that can be a great cause of stress and anxiety leading up to their hearing. For the most part each hearing is very much like every other hearing in terms of how they are held, with some minor differences.
To begin with, the hearing office is not at your county courthouse, instead most are located in some type of professional business park or commercial building. Most have free parking and are fairly easy to get to if you have directions. Once you get to the hearing office you will be required to present some form of identification and go through a brief security check before you are allowed to enter. Once you check in with the receptionist you will wait for your hearing to be held at the designated time that was given to you. Most of the time hearings occur on time especially if they are scheduled first thing in the morning, so be sure to arrive on time or better yet at least 30 minutes early.
The actual hearing room is a relatively small room about the size of a large living room and has one or two tables with several chairs and a bench for the judge (ALJ). Most of the time the only people present at your hearing are the ALJ, the ALJ’s assistant, you (the claimant), your attorney if you have one, and possibly an expert or two (vocational expert or medical expert). You may be allowed to have a witness attend as well. The hearings are recorded for appeal purposes only and the general public is not allowed to attend your hearing so everything is confidential.
Hearings typically last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, with few exceptions lasting less than 30 minutes or more than 1 hour. Also, most of the time a decision is NOT made on the day of your hearing, instead the ALJ will write up a formal decision and mail it to all interested parties typically within 1-3 months after your hearing.
During your actual hearing, most of the time is spent asking simple questions about your disability and how you are unable to work because of your medical impairments. Most importantly are the questions from the judge about how your medical impairments affect your ability to function in a work environment. The ALJ may also ask you things such as; your past work activity, your education background, your medications, your doctors, what hobbies you have, what kinds of things you do all day, who you live with, and more functional specific questions like how far you can walk, how long you can sit or stand, and how many pounds can you lift and carry. These are just several examples of what you could potentially be asked at your hearing.
The most important thing about your hearing is that you try to convey to the ALJ exactly what prevents you from being able to work and why you cannot functionally perform any type of work activity on a regular basis. This can be difficult sometimes and it is helpful if you have someone on your side who has been through this process many times before and knows what questions to ask and more importantly which questions not to ask.
If you have a social security disability hearing pending it would probably be a good idea to speak to an attorney who can help you prepare for your hearing to give you the best chance at a favorable outcome. If you have any questions about your hearing or what to do at your hearing do not hesitate to contact one of our Charlotte, NC social security disability attorney’s, we would be happy to assist you in any way we can.