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Disability Applicants Should Understand the Hearing Process

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The process of pursuing a claim for disability benefits can be complex and difficult to understand. If your application gets rejected initially, you may request an appeal. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will review your case again to determine your eligibility. 

The SSA can deny your application if you do not meet the SSI eligibility criteria. However, if you disagree with the SSA’s reconsideration decision, you can request a hearing. After reconsideration, an administrative law judge (ALJ) will oversee your hearing and again review your application and records. 

About half of the applicants who seek a hearing get approved when the ALJ reviews the case. However, the other half of applicants still do not receive the benefits for which they have applied.

It is critical to file for a hearing quickly after you receive notice that reconsideration has been denied. 

The SSA allows applicants to request an administrative hearing within 60 days of receiving the notice of denial. The judge may ask follow-up questions regarding your medical impairment, or a medical expert may be present to evaluate your condition. 

Disability benefits are available for various physical and mental health impairments. However, for any disabling condition, you will need to provide medical evidence to strengthen your case. Continue reading to learn more about the disability hearing procedure and prepare yourself for it. 

When and where will the hearing happen?

It may take a while after you file a request for a hearing, but you will receive an official notice from the SSA that includes the date, time, and location details for the hearing. The authorities will send the notice at least 20 days before the hearing date. 

Understand the Hearing ProcessOn the day of the hearing, it is important to ensure that you arrive to the hearing location on time. The hearings are fairly short and only last about 15 minutes to one hour. If you arrive late, you will have to explain your delay. The ALJ will reschedule the hearing only if they determine that the explanation you provide is sufficient. 

The court hearings often occur at a Social Security Office. If your debilitating condition is severe and it precludes you from traveling, you can request that your hearing be conducted via videoconference. It is up to the SSA’s discretion whether to allow you to have a hearing remotely. People of any age may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. However, the disability rules after age 50 are different, so it is important to understand them if they apply to you.

What will happen at a hearing? 

What happens at a SSA hearing will largely depend on the complexity of your case and the extent of the supporting evidence you have provided. However, these are some of the things that you can expect during your hearing: 

  • The judge will ask the applicant questions about their condition and their inability to work
  • The claimant can present testimony
  • The judge will communicate with your attorney

A hearing can involve any combination of the steps we have listed above. When the hearing starts, the judge will first introduce your case and then will ask follow-up questions. 

The judges can ask the questions to the claimant directly, and the claimant will have to answer them carefully. To properly get yourself ready for the hearing, be sure to prepare answers to common questions in advance. You should have a clear understanding of how your disability affects you, both physically and mentally. It is important for you to tell the judge how your condition prevents you from working and limits your ability to interact socially with your family

You can present your testimony at the hearing. A vocational expert will then review your testimony and may ask you questions based on the information you provided.  

You should answer each question carefully. Everything that you or your representative says at the hearing will be recorded. If there is something you do not understand during the hearing, you can question the witnesses and experts, as well. 

The judge will review the evidence and testimony that you provided, and will then analyze the whole case. Then, based on the records and hearing, the judge will issue a written decision. You or your representative will receive a copy of the decision. 

If you are not satisfied with the decision, you can request a review. The SSA Appeals Council will then review your application after receiving your request. 

How should I answer questions at the hearing?

The number of questions posed during the hearing may vary for adults, children, and other individuals. The number of questions generally depends on the complexity of the case. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the questions: 

  • Be specific about your limitations and symptoms: Answer clearly and use descriptive words to explain your condition. 
  • Do not provide unnecessary information: Stick to the symptoms and limitations that your impairment causes. 
  • Be ready to explain your medical history: The judge may ask you to briefly explain your medical history. 
  • Describe your daily living before and after the impairment: You should provide a detailed account of your condition and activities you could perform before and after impairment. 
  • Do not feel embarrassed: Do not hide facts about your treatment and procedure out of shame or embarrassment. Be clear and vocal about all of the symptoms that you experience. 

You can seek the help of experienced Florida disability lawyers to help you prepare for the hearing.