How should you dress?
A common question my clients ask is do they need to dress up for their Social Security disability hearing? Do wear clothes that you are comfortable in and dress like if you were meeting a friend to get a bite to eat or go to a movie. Don't dress up like you would for a wedding or a funeral.
What time should you arrive?
Do arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the scheduled Social Security disability hearing. This allows the claimant time to go through security, sign in, use the restroom and meet with their attorney for any last minute questions or concerns. You do not need to arrive any earlier as the longer you have to wait the more stressed out you may become and often the disability hearings are running behind schedule anyway. Don't be late as the judge will not look on you kindly if they are ready to hear your disability claim and you are not there yet.
Be aware of your surroundings
I advise my clients to be focused on the seriousness of the Social Security disability hearing from the time they leave their home until they arrive back home after the disability hearing. As the claimant is leaving their vehicle in the parking lot, to riding the elevator to the hearing office, to waiting in the hearing office reception area be sure you don't say or do anything that could jeopardize your claim (a Social Security Administration employee may see or hear something from you that may not make a favorable impression). There are private conference rooms where the claimant can discuss their case with their attorney without anyone eavesdropping.
Who is present at the Hearing?
At the Social Security disability hearing there will be an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), their assistant who records the hearing, the claimant, their attorney, often a Vocational Expert (VE) and/or a Medical Expert (ME), if the claimant does not speak English, an interpreter, (provided and paid for by the Social Security Administration) who speaks their native tongue and any witnesses for the claimant. Do sit up straight, tell the truth, speak clearly and loud enough so everyone can hear you and give verbal responses to questions and not "uh huh" or nodding your head as these non-verbal answers can not be recorded. Don't be argumentative, complain about how long the process takes or exaggerate when testifying.
Is the Hearing like going to trial in court?
The Social Security disability hearings are much more informal than most court hearings. The disability hearings are conducted in a conference room and are closed to the general public. You do not have to worry about being cross-examined by an attorney representing the SSA as they do not have an attorney present as the hearing is designed to be non-adversarial and informal. However you, any expert witnesses and your witnesses will testify under oath and be questioned by the ALJ and your attorney. Most hearings usually last about one hour. Do stay relaxed. Don't be stressed out.
How long does it take for the ALJ to make a decision?
Usually the ALJ will take about 30-90 days to send out their written decision which will be mailed to the claimant and their attorney. Most ALJ's don't announce their decision at the Social Security disability hearing but occasionally will do so. Don't call the hearing office after your hearing to see if your disability claim has been decided as usually you will be told to wait for the decision to arrive in the mail. Hopefully you will receive a favorable decision but if not, your attorney can file an appeal with the Appeals Council for the next level of review. Don't give up.
If you have any questions about Social Security disability, you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213, go to their website at www.ssa.gov or call The Nuebel Law Firm, P.A. at 407-703-5999 for a free consultation.