A Social Security Disability Hearing is not similar to what you see on the famed drama Law & Order. Courtrooms are not packed with people and the hearings themselves are not filled with courtroom drama. In fact, a disability hearing is an informal judicial proceeding conducted by a Federal Administrative Law Judge. It is not an adversarial proceeding so an attorney representing the Federal government will NOT be present. The purpose of the hearing is for the claimant to provide testimony as to why they are unable to work.
Whether a claimant is represented by an attorney or not, the questions that a claimant could potentially be asked are the same. The most popular questions cover a claimant’s employment history, the responsibilities they had while working, the claimant’s injuries and impairments, the medical treatment the claimant has received, what the claimant does on a daily basis and finally, the claimant’s current physical and mental abilities. Of course, a Judge may ask a number of other questions relating to whether a claimant can work, but there is no definitive list of questions that will arise at each hearing.
If a claimant is represented by an attorney, the claimant will be fully prepared to address any and all questions in the hearing. An attorney can provide a number of advantages at the hearing level. For starters, a claimant’s rights will be protected because the attorney is entitled to object to questionable pieces of evidence that may be in the Social Security file. An attorney who is well versed in the area of disability law can also focus on the important issues in the case, as opposed to generalizing why the individual is unable to work. In some cases, an attorney can win a claimant’s case without even going to a hearing!
That said, it is not a requirement for a claimant to be represented by an attorney. After the claimant provides testimony, an expert may or may not be present to assist the Judge in determining a claimant’s abilities. If an expert is present, the claimant, or the claimant’s attorney, can cross-examine the expert with questions after the Judge is finished.
Think of the disability hearing as a claimant’s “one day in court.” This is a great opportunity to explain to a Judge why the Social Security Administration incorrectly denied their case upon an initial application. For a better perspective of what the hearing will be like, CLICK HERE to watch a great video on disability hearings.