You filed your Social Security Disability (SSDI) claim in good faith — and waited. Your claim was denied, so you filed an appeal and waited some more — only to be denied again.
You filed your second appeal, and you finally have a date to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to plead your case. Now, you’re nervous because you have no idea what to expect.
Here’s what will probably happen at your hearing with the ALJ
The ALJ has the power to approve or deny your claim, so this is understandably stressful for you. Knowing more about what to expect can help you prepare and calm your nerves.
Here’s what generally happens:
- The ALJ may ask you questions.
You will probably be asked basic questions about your identity, your disability, your prior work history and your education.
The ALJ may even bluntly ask you, “Why can’t you work?” It’s important to think out your answers to a question like this very carefully. A good answer starts something like, “I can’t work because my condition makes it impossible for me to…” By comparison, a bad answer is something like, “I can’t work because nobody will hire me.” You want to keep the focus on your disability and how it limits you from gainful work activity at all times.
- You may hear testimony from a medical or vocational expert.
Sometimes Social Security will call in a medical expert to address disputes over your condition. The expert may argue that there simply isn’t enough “hard” medical evidence (like test results and x-rays) that proves your condition is serious.
Vocational experts are also commonly called to tell the ALJ what sort of work you could be able to do based on occupational trends, the job market in your area and their knowledge of what someone of your age, education and limitations could do.
One of the most important things a disability attorney can do is challenge the expert testimony that doesn’t favor their client’s case — and they’re often highly effective at doing so. When you’re fighting for Social Security Disability benefits and your future, you don’t want to do it alone.