My Hearing Is Scheduled: Who will be present? What should I expect?

Your hearing has been scheduled. Instead of wondering when your hearing will take place, you are now wondering, “Who is going to be asking me questions? What are they going to ask?” Every case is different. There are a number of factors that determine what questions will be asked, including who the judge will be, what type of case it is, and what is in the medical record.
First, it’s helpful to know who will be present at your hearing. An administrative law judge will preside over the hearing, and a hearing reporter will be present to record the hearing and manage the technology. You will need to attend, as will your representative. Most hearings will have a security officer, but it depends on hearing location whether they will be in the hearing room or outside. Most adult disability hearings have a vocational expert who may be present in person, by video, or by phone. Some hearings will also have a medical expert who also may be present in person, by video, or by phone. Most of the questions will be asked by the judge and your representative, though the vocational expert and medical expert may have some questions.
The role your testimony plays is to supplement the record to help the judge make a decision. The decision is primarily based on your medical record, but your testimony can help the judge understand your case from your perspective. You’ve already completed forms about your limitations and work history, but things may have changed since then.

Additionally, being present at the hearing allows for the judge or your representative to ask pointed questions depending on your answers to previous questions. Your testimony helps the judge interpret your medical record and resolve any questions he or she may have about particular notes. The medical record may not include all of the detail that the judge needs, such as how it is you are capable of completing certain tasks, or how you’ve adapted.

Regarding the questions you will be asked, keep in mind that judges do not have a script from the Social Security Administration that they follow. Every judge runs the hearing in his or her own way. Some judges prefer that the representative ask most of the questions. Some ask such thorough questions that very little follow up, if any, is necessary by the representative. Some judges rely more heavily on the written record and therefore have fewer questions. There are hearings that involve no testimony from the claimant. Because of this, nobody can say exactly what questions you will be asked, but what this article can do is discuss what questions may be asked.

Most hearings start with a basic background:

  • Name
  • Social Security number
  • age
  • education
  • where you live and with whom
  • your work history

Some judges will go through an individual’s entire work history, even if a form outlining the work history has already been completed. It is necessary for the judge to evaluate the length of the work, how many hours were worked, how much you were paid, what duties were involved, how much exertion the job required, and if there would be any transferable skills from this occupation to others. The judge may also have questions about any work performed since the onset date, as they need to determine that it is not inconsistent with a finding of disability and that it was not performed at a gainful level.

Most judges ask a question to the effect of, “Why do you believe you cannot work?” This is your opportunity to explain how your conditions interfere with your ability to work full-time. It is not a time to list all of your diagnoses, but to describe how your conditions actually limit you. It’s common for the judge to ask about a treatment you have received as well as the effect of that treatment. If the record notes any noncompliance or issues following prescribed treatment, he or she may inquire about that as well.

It can be helpful for a judge to ask you about your daily activities as it can paint a picture of what you’re capable of doing, and how you complete these activities. Household chores, childcare activities, and hobbies can help the judge determine what it is you are capable of doing.

Lastly, the judge’s questioning is a time for them to ask you about anything in the record that might raise suspicions, such as inconsistencies between medical providers, notes regarding working during the claim that is not documented, or notes regarding drugs or alcohol.

For further information regarding the Disability Hearing visit Social Security’s website.

Representative Emily Olson