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How a Disability Hearing is Conducted

A disability hearing is often conducted when one’s Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) application is denied. In most cases, this is the best opportunity for a claimant and his lawyer to present their case to the administrative law judge (ALJ). This is also the chance or time to prove that one’s disability is severe enough for an applicant to be eligible to receive benefits.

Generally, a disability hearing is attended by an administrative law judge, a hearing reporter, the claimant and his lawyers and in some cases, a medical expert, a vocational expert or any witness that an applicant may bring with him.

In the hearing, an applicant will be given the chance to present his case through his lawyer, and with the help of witnesses, he can present the expert opinion of a medical or vocational expert to support his claim.

  1. Hearing Start - The SSDI or SSI hearing usually starts with the ALJ introducing the case and admitting the case file as evidence.  The ALJ will then either start the questioning himself or ask the claimants lawyer or representative to start the questioning.
  2. The questioning usually starts with basic information such as name, address, date of birth, last grade you completed in school, etc. Questions about one’s past work will be asked, with the ALJ or one’s lawyer asking about each jobs.
  3. Determining the requirements in a job – During the questioning hour, an applicant will be subjected to different questions that will determine both the “exertional (physical) requirements” and the “non-exertional (non-physical) requirements” of one’s job. During this stage, an applicant will be asked the following questions:

    • how long he has worked at each job

    • what his job duties were

    • what are the limitations on one’s movement

    • how much does one have to lift on that job

    • how long does one have to sit and stand, any reaching or bending

    • how did one use his hands on job, or did he supervise other employees, etc.

    In addition to these, you will also be asked about the doctors you see for your medical treatment and the usual chores you do at home.


  • The Judge oversees the hearing, determines how it is conducted, and makes the final decision on your SSDI or SSI claim.

  • The hearing reporter makes a recording of the entire hearing.

  • Your lawyer or representative will present your case and can question any witness including the vocational and medical expert.

  • The vocational expert often gives his expert opinion on work factors in a social security claim. If there is a medical expert present, they will give their opinion on the medical issues of the case including the medical listings.

Aside from questions related to one’s job and disability, the judge will also ask an applicant about his mental or psychiatric condition. This will help the ALJ determine what kind of physical or mental limitations one has.

The applicant’s reply to all these questions during the disability hearing will either make or break one’s case or claim. Generally, the strength of one’s claim will depend on whether the judge will believe one’s testimony or not.  If an applicant’s testimony is consistent with one’s medical conditions, there is a higher possibility that the ALJ will find one’s testimony to be credible and therefore grant his claim.

At any rate, getting the help of a skilled and experienced representative, preferably a social security lawyer can help you get the proper representation that you deserve in a disability hearing.

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