What is an administrative law judge and what do they do at Social Security disability hearings?
Learn how administrative law judges are trained by Social Security to conduct disability hearings and to decide if you are disabled under the law.
The Disability Hearing Duties of an Administrative Law Judge
An administrative law judge (ALJ for short) is an official hired by the Social Security Administration to conduct Social Security hearings including hearings to determine whether an individual is disabled as defined by Social Security law. Administrative law judges, review case files before your hearing, listen to claim arguments made by you or your attorney and listen to testimony at your hearing. They decide whether to approve or deny claims, usually after the hearing; although they may make a “bench” decision to approve your claim at the hearing. After the hearing, the judge must write a written determination and then review and sign the approval or denial letter that is written up off the determination.
The Background and Training of Administrative Law Judges
Almost all ALJs are attorneys. Applicants for administrative law judge positions go through a very intensive and careful selection process that includes testing and panel interviews. Once they are selected, the new judges receive extensive training in a six-week-long course of study that includes Social Security law, regulations, and hearing procedures. For more information about Social Security and SSI Disability hearings, see our other hearing articles, starting with What Is a Social Security Disability Hearing? and How long does it take to get a hearing decision and to start collecting Social Security Disability benefits?.