What To Expect at a Social Security Hearing

Watch this video by dedicated Buffalo disability attorney Kenneth Hiller, Esq. as he explains what to expect at a social security hearing.

What should you expect at your Social Security hearings? Social Security hearings presently are held either by video or by telephone, and it is expected that in short order, they will be returning to in-person hearings. But there’s no timetable set for that. When you do arrive for your hearing, you will hopefully be with an attorney, and there’s no attorney for the government. It’s just the judge, the judges clerk, the attorney, and the client, and you’ll be sworn in and asked questions.

Sometimes the judge asks questions, sometimes, the judge asks the attorney to ask the questions. It really doesn’t matter. The questions are basically the same. You’ll be sworn in, and you’ll be asked questions about your age, educational background, work history, medical problems, and why you can’t work as a result of your medical problems.

Basically, your job is just to tell the judge in your own words why your medical condition prevents you from working. Your attorney will be given an opportunity to cross-examine you. For example, the judge asks you a question that the attorney thinks maybe didn’t help your case. The attorney can try to clear that up. And that’s a very important reason why you should have an attorney at the hearing.

It’s very informal. As I said, there’s no attorney for the government. There are very rarely objections or anything of that nature. After you finished testifying, typically, there is a vocational expert, and a vocational expert is somebody who is hired by the Social Security Administration to give testimony about the world of jobs. So the judge will ask this vocational expert questions about whether you or somebody similar to you could work.

So those questions will be asked, and the vocational expert will answer them. And that’s often the heart of the case because these vocational experts typically will say that some jobs could be performed. And as attorneys, one of the most important things we do is study the job market and vocational resources so we can cross-examine these vocational experts. Oftentimes we’re able to crack holes in their testimony and convince the judge that the jobs they say exist do not exist in significant numbers.

The judge may come back with further questions from the vocational expert, and sometimes there’s a doctor actually who testifies at the hearing. Social Security often will hire a doctor to testify at the hearing. If there’s some unique medical issue that they want some clarification of. I would say that it’s probably about 10% of the hearings maybe where there’s a medical expert.

Again, the judge would ask the medical expert questions, and then your attorney would have the opportunity to cross-examine the medical expert at the hearing. Of course, that can be very important after all this testimony has taken place. Oftentimes the judge will ask you if there’s anything else you want to say in support of your case, and I usually advise my clients to tell them how this has affected their lives. Why? Many of my clients will tell me that they’re embarrassed to be asking for money from the federal government.

Or some of my clients will just say that they wish they were working, but they just can’t do it, and they’re just hoping that the judge can assist them in some way. After that is done, the judge closes the hearing. They very rarely will tell you whether or not you won or lost at the hearing. Sometimes we can kind of read between the tea leaves and figure out which way the case is going to go, but oftentimes we can’t really tell, and then you get a decision sometime afterward.

It can range. We have received decisions a week after the hearing. We’ve received decisions a year after the hearing. Typically, I think they take about two to three months. This was just basically an overview of the hearing process. Of course, there are a lot of things that can take place in your hearing that may not take place in other people’s hearings.

If you have questions about what takes place at a hearing or how an attorney might be able to help you at a hearing, please feel free to call us for a free consultation.

At Hiller Comerford Injury & Disability Law, PLLC, our attorneys offer skilled guidance through the process. We have successfully helped thousands of clients receive Social Security benefits in a timely manner. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo social security disability attorney