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What is a Social Security Disability hearing, and what can I expect when I request a disability hearing?

By   /  March 3, 2016  /  165 Comments

Find out about hearing-level appeals, what to expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing, and how lawyers for Social Security Disability can help.

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Watch the Video: “What is a Social Security Disability hearing, and what can I expect when I request a disability hearing?”

What Is a Disability Hearing?

A Social Security Disability hearing is the second appeal that you can file within the Social Security Administration’s appeal system. The first level of appeal is a Request for Reconsideration. A request for hearing follows a reconsideration denial or an only partially favorable reconsideration decision. For more information about reconsideration appeals, see our article “What Is a Social Security Request for Reconsideration?”

When and Where is a Social Security Disability Hearing Held

Hearings are usually held in person within seventy-five miles of your home. However, if you agree, your hearing might be held by video conferencing. Due to the large number of hearings filed, you will likely have to wait over a year for your hearing. When your hearing date comes up, the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, which is the Social Security hearing office, will send you notification of the hearing date twenty days in advance.

How a Disability Hearing Is Different from a Reconsideration

Hearings differ from reconsideration reviews in one very important way: you get to talk to, see, and be seen by, the decision maker. This is your chance to give voice to your claim. At a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge literally hears your case. You and your attorney can not only tell the judge about your limitations but, with some illnesses, the judge can also see your limitations. Additionally, you or your attorney can submit depositions, call and question witnesses, such as your doctors, your most recent employer, and your family and friends who have direct knowledge of your limitations. You or your attorney can also cross examine witnesses, such as any vocational and medical experts that the judge may call.

Attorney Representation for the Hearing

A Social Security Disability hearing is a legal proceeding. Accordingly, it is important to have someone who is experienced in hearing procedures with you at the hearing. In addition to preparing your case for review by the Administrative Law Judge, who’s called an ALJ for short, your lawyer will explain the hearing procedure to you, orient you to the judge, and give you tips on how to participate appropriately in the hearing. He can also help you question any witnesses the ALJ may have requested. And, it is always nice not to go into unknown territory alone.

Another benefit of having an attorney is that you may not have to attend an actual hearing. Instead, depending on the facts of your claim, your attorney may request an “on-the-record” decision. This means that the lawyer writes up a summary of the information in your claim file and makes a written argument for your approval. The Administrative Law Judge then reviews the on-the-record request and, if he can approve your claim, he will go ahead with a decision. If that happens, you don’t have to go to court! If the judge does not approve your claim on the record, you will still get your hearing.

For more information about the Social Security Disability hearing process, you may find it helpful to review the rest of our articles about SSD hearings.

What If the ALJ Denies My Disability Claim

If your claim is denied at the Social Security Disability hearing, you can request review of the denial by the Appeals Council. For additional information, please see our article “What Is a Social Security Appeals Council Review and What If the Appeals Council Denies My Claim?”

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  • Published: 7 months ago on March 3, 2016
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  • Last Modified: March 4, 2016 @ 4:04 pm
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  1. Caressa Bray says:

    Hi, I have been waiting FOREVER! For a hearing. I filed August 8, 2014, I have a lawyer and when I called them I have found out that I have been assigned an ALJ. That was about 6 weeks ago I still don’t have a court date. How much longer should it be until I get one? I know you won’t know exactly but in your best opinion how much longer. I am trying to hang in there but I really don’t know how much longer I can mentally handle this, without going to the hospital.

    Thank you

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Caressa,

      I can’t tell you how long you may wait, but you are getting close. Your attorney might have a better idea than I do. I can say that your appeal being assigned to a judge is a big step in moving toward a hearing dat


  2. Natali says:

    Good evening.my daughter is 12 years old,she has hearing loss, one ear is profound, the other one is severe.her Ssi application was denied.and now we have a hearing on September . But I,m worry because1. I have no atorney. 2.english my second language .3.i never have been in a court.can I ask for translator?and should I bring my 12 old child to the hearing? I live in Pennsylvania, bucks county.where can I found an attorney? Or legall help?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Natali,

      Yes, you can request a translator and, yes, you can bring your child to the hearing with you. You can get a list of attorneys in your area who have experience with Social Security and SSI appeals from your state’s bar association and I do suggest that you get an attorney. (If you can find a bi-lingual one, all the better.) When you hire a Social Security attorney, you do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge, and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from your retroactive award before they send your back pay to you.


  3. Brian says:

    Hello I got a question I had my hearing for disability on the 12th of august I had a lawyer my case was I have anxiety bipolar explosive disorder depression idk if I got approved yet how do you know my lawyer said I have a good chance I also submitted my old school records he said that will help my case

  4. virginia says:

    hi Kay, My lawyer filed for a request for a hearing in Nov. 3, 2015 when will I have a hearing.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Virginia,

      The length of a wait for a hearing varies from state to state and office to office–usually twelve to twenty-four months. You can look up average wait time for your office at https://www.ssa.gov/appeals/DataSets/01_NetStat_Report.html.


    • jojo says:

      i was sent by the judge for a medical ce , doctor stated he was putting down spinal stenosis and that i must be carefull not to fall get into any kind of accidents due to the severity of my neck issues my lawyer told me i was 99 percent to win now after seeing there doctor and his comments i think its 100 percent . do the case evaluaters usually tell you what there putting down just curious was assigned judge still waiting for court date

  5. Priscilla Velez says:

    I had an alj hearing on June 13, 2016. How long does it take for a decision? My attorney said the hearing went well and that she thinks that I am approved. Can an attorney tell if someone may be approved?

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Priscilla,

      Experienced attorneys have a good idea of how a hearing went, so there is no reason to doubt her opinion. However, there is no way to know for sure until you get the decision letter.


  6. karen says:

    Dear Kay, I contacted the hearing office the lady I spoke to said my claim has been accepted as a critical case to be exspadited. She then said your file is still with that Judge that granted it but she didn’t know why he still has it this long because you have been assigned to a judge for hearing but no date. Just wanted to know what this could mean

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Karen,

      The information you received could mean that the judge just hasn’t gotten to your appeal yet or it could mean that he is reviewing it to see whether he can approve your claim on the record (OTR) without a hearing.


      • karen says:

        Good morning Kay. I spoke with the same lady in the hearing office that told me my claim was assigned to a judge . She now told me my claim has a hearing date and she told me its in October and the time but I won’t get a letter probably til the dates closer . My question is even though there’s a date can a chance for otr still happen ? I did ask her but she said she didn’t think so because I have an attorney I don’t know what she meant by that . My anxiety and depression is really bad right now.the only time im really leaving the house is to go to doctor appointments. I think my anxiety is starting to kick in bad because the thought of going in front of a judge . I have only been in front of a judge when my daughter was younger for child support that was 20 years ago . My memory Focus concentration and to listen is really bad right now I’m so afraid I’m not going to answer questions right if he asked me any questions . My doctor completed my mrfc form I’m hoping the judge will see on the form what kind of problems I have before he talks to me so he understands I have problems with comprehension. Thank you Kay for all your answers to my questions .

        • Kay Derochie says:

          Dear Karen,

          If your attorney did not submit a request for an on-the-record decision and a hearing date has been set, it is likely you will have the hearing. I suggest that you discuss your anxiety and concerns about the hearing with your attorney. It is okay to say during the hearing that you are feeling very stressed and having trouble thinking–understanding and relating information–if that turns out to be the case.


  7. Lynnette says:

    hello I had a level one hearing for my daughter who is developmentally delayed and intellectual disability and add and adhd. they cut off her benefits and I never recieved a denial letter. I called social
    Security and that’s when they told me she is not receiving her benefits for aug 2016 I then went in to the social security office to file appeal and let them know I never ever recieved that denial letter And we need her benefit for her care and for bills living expense they told it it was too late and told me I have to wait for a judge to view case or see one I also wrote a dire need of income letter because that is not right to cut off the benefit and I never recieved a letter to appeal what do I do I am stressed and we do not have much and I supplied all documentation of her disability and she is also being kept back in the third grade and she is ten. I try asking them out her benefit back on while we wait they said no because of it being after 10 days and I said I never recieved that letter they said was sent out in May I never got it.

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lynnette,

      The ten days should begin the date you were verbally told that her benefits were being terminated. If you initiated the appeal within ten days of finding out her benefits were to stop, she should be eligible for provisional benefits while the appeal is pending. Go to the office and ask to speak to a supervisor; then ask for continued benefits because you appealed within ten days of notice.

      If this is unsuccessful, check to see if your daughter and/or your family is eligible for any temporary services through the state. Attorneys usually take termination cases only if benefits have been stopped, so you may be able to get an attorney to help with your appeal. When you hire a Social Security attorney, you do not have to pay any legal fees up front and you will pay attorney fees only if you are approved for benefits. Social Security law sets the amount your attorney can charge, and the Social Security Administration pays the attorney directly from your retroactive award before they send your back pay to you.


  8. Lisa Mathews says:

    Dear Kay;

    I applied for SSDI December 2013. One of the disabilities is CRPS from 2011. Recently the ALJ requested medical records from April 2012, as that is the date I said I became disabled.

    I have not gone to my Neurologist in about a year, as they stated several times that there is no chance for recovery & that I could not have any additional surgeries. The Neurologist had told me to file for Disability a few times prior to my filing & after.

    Since I was told that there was no chance for recovery & I stopped going, would that reflect poorly on me to the ALJ? I would hope not, since the diagnosis was no hope.

    Thank you,

    • Kay Derochie says:

      Dear Lisa,

      “No chance of recovery” would mean that if your condition is severe enough to be disabling as defined by Social Security law, your benefits would continue indefinitely.


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