To have a hearing with an administrative law judge, an individual must have been denied at the initial level and reconsideration level and then filed a Request for Hearing. The hearings are typically scheduled in the order that they are received and as an administrative law judge and a date/time slot become available. This is typically the lengthiest part of the process; the wait time varies throughout the nation.
The Office of Hearings Operations must inform you and your representative at least 75 days in advance of your hearing, with some exceptions. This allows you and your representative time to ensure that all evidence that pertains to your disabilities is submitted to the judge prior to the hearing.
A hearing with an administrative law judge is much more informal than a trial. One could describe it as a conference. Typically, the hearing will take place in a conference room with the judge sitting at a raised bench, and all others involved in the hearing around a table or testifying by phone or video. It is in your best interest to be present at the hearing site. Usually, your friends and/or family members will not be allowed to sit in on the hearing. The hearing is also closed to the public.
It is best to dress as you would if you were going to a doctor’s appointment or a meeting. If possible, wear clean clothes without rips or tears, and avoid clothing with offensive language or profanity. Dress comfortably in clothes that do not exacerbate your condition (i.e. avoid buttons if you have great difficulties with these, wear elastic-waist pants if regular-waist pants cause pain, avoid unsteady shoes if you have difficulties with balance or walking). There is no need to buy anything new or wear formal clothing. While you should do your best to have acceptable grooming, you do not need to spend a lot of time with hair, makeup, nails, etc. Simply put, try to present yourself respectfully without making yourself uncomfortable.
Some people find it helpful to bring a notebook with their medications and some notes about medical providers, but this is not necessary and seldom used. You will want to bring your ID and your hearing notice that arrives in the mail prior to your hearing date. Bring anything you would typically bring if you were leaving your house, such as assistive devices, medical equipment, medication, and/or water. If you have medical equipment that you do not typically bring with you or you do not need, leave it at home. Do not bring any weapons, including pocket knives as they are not allowed in the buildings where the hearings take place. There is typically a security screening process.
You will want to arrive 30 minutes prior to your hearing unless you are informed otherwise. Your hearing notice will inform you of all who will be present. Typically, those present include the judge (in person or by video), a hearing reporter, a security officer, you, and your representative. Hearings may also have “expert witnesses,” such as a vocational expert and/or a medical expert. Both the judge and your representative will have an opportunity to question you and the experts if they find it necessary.
While in some cases the administrative law judge will give some indication that your case will be approved at the hearing, this is rare. Decisions are issued in writing post-hearing. Both you and your representative will receive a copy.
Representative Emily Olson