You’ve filed for Social Security Disability benefits and you’ve been denied your initial application. So you work your way through the necessary appeals process and, unfortunately, your request for reconsideration is also denied. At this point, you have the opportunity to request a hearing before an administrative law judge.
The Key Players
Administrative Law Judge
At the hearing, there will be an administrative law judge, who works for the Social Security Administration (SSA), rendering decisions on disability claims at the hearing level. The judge may appear before you physically, but may also telecommute via satellite video conference .
There will also be a vocational expert. The vocational expert’s job is to determine whether there are any jobs, whatsoever, that are within the capabilities of a hypothetical person with variable levels of impairment. The expert will generally appear in the same format as the judge–meaning that if the judge telecommutes, so will the vocational expert and vice versa.
Additionally, there will be a court reporter who is responsible for setting up the meeting and transcribing the proceedings.
In your corner will be your representative, who is there to help you present your case. This can be either an attorney or another qualified Social Security expert.
Sometimes, you’ll have a medical expert, there to clarify any complicated medical information, outside the judge’s scope of understanding. These experts are generally requested by the judge if need be. On very rare occasions, the medical expert may be physically present. Most of the time, they’ll telecommute by phone.
The Hearing Process
Step 1: Your Testimony
During the hearing, the court will draw your testimony. You will testify to what keeps you from working–whether it be physical or mental health issues. Your representative cannot and will not testify on your behalf. They will only draw your testimony through questions, so be prepared to speak for yourself. You are your only witness, with the exception of a case in which you there a relevant facts to which you cannot testify (generally for medical reasons). In this case, additional testimony may be accepted. This is usually done by affidavit or, in very rare cases, in person, at the request of the judge.
Step 2: Testimony From The Vocational Expert
After your testimony, the judge will question the vocational expert. The purpose of this is to find out, given certain hypothetical situations, if someone in your situation can still complete the work they’ve done in the past. If the answer to this question is no, the judge will ask, using more hypotheticals, whether or not someone in your situation, given varying degrees of impairment, is capable of doing other jobs (Remember: in order to receive Social Security Disability Benefits, one has to be completely incapable of working).
Step 3: Judge’s Assessment
After this line of questioning, the judge can determine the line of impairment at which they can grant you disability benefits. This does not mean that they will grant you benefits. All this means is that, should the judge determine that you possess this level of impairment, you would be considered disabled. However, the judge may also determine that you have not reached the line of impairment, at which you are completely incapable of working.
For more information concerning Social Security Disability laws or for help with your case, visit JonesBrownLaw.com or give us a call at 855-JBLAW-99 (855-525-2999).