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What To Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing

Texas lawyer Robert Kraft has on his Kraft Elder Law Blog a wonderfully informative article on what Social Security claimants can expect at the Hearing stage.  Please check out Attorney Kraft's numerous other blogs as he is producing some great content on his blogs.  Here is the article:

The administrative hearing is the third stage in a Social Security or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) appeal. After a denial at the reconsideration level a hearing is requested. It takes between 12 and 15 months to get a hearing date after the hearing request. Hearings are meant to be informal, fact-finding procedures.

The people present at the hearing are the claimant, attorney, judge and the reporter who is there simply to record the hearing and handle the file. Usually a vocational expert will be present in person or available by telephone. Sometimes a physician will be at the hearing. The job of these experts is to give opinions on the case, based on the record and the testimony. Lay witnesses, such as family members or former employers, may also appear and testify.

There is no prosecutor at the hearing, no lawyer for Social Security to cross-examine the claimant. The hearings usually take about an hour. The judges will sometimes ask questions first and then allow the attorney to direct questions to the claimant. Some judges let the attorney ask questions first. In either event, the main information covered is age, educational background including vocational training, work history, and disabilities. The disabilities can be mental, physical, or both.

All the pertinent information is presented to the judge. The judge will consider the medical evidence in the file, the testimony at the hearing, the experts’ opinions, and any further briefs or letters from the attorney. The judge will then issue a decision. The decision will rarely be given at the hearing itself. It is usually about 90 days after the hearing before a written decision can be expected.

The written decision, if favorable, is the trigger for the beginning of the payment process. Unfortunately, it can still be several more months until money is in the hands of a successful claimant. In SSI claims the claimant is called into the District Office for an interview to establish current financial qualification. The claimant may get a check within 60 to 120 days or longer. Regular disability cases are paid from a payment office in another part of the country and have similar delays.

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