Filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) isn’t an easy process, and initial denials are very common. Unfortunately, reconsideration requests may not be any more successful.
This forces a lot of deserving claimants to request a hearing so that they can plead their case before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) directly. Understanding what happens after you file your request can help demystify the process and make it easier to prepare.
A long wait lies ahead, so use it wisely
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will schedule a hearing date and notify you of when and how to attend – but don’t expect it to be soon. Currently, it takes an eye-popping average of 13 months to get to that date. Use this time to prepare for the hearing by continuing to document your condition and limitations through regular medical visits and, if possible, a journal that tracks your symptoms and pain. Make sure that all of your medical records and supporting documentation are forwarded to the ALJ’s office, and that you respond to any additional requests for information right away.
Be ready to testify on your own behalf
When your hearing date finally arrives, you will be sworn in (so that you are testifying under oath), and the ALJ will proceed to ask you questions about your medical condition, any limitations you have as a result and how your disability affects your ability to work. The ALJ may also ask you specific questions about your medical treatment, your symptoms, your work history, your education and how you manage to handle basic daily activities (such as bathing, dressing or cooking). Practice giving clear, detailed answers to these kinds of questions so that you feel confident and ready to respond.
Expect testimony by an expert witness
You can typically expect a vocational expert to testify about what work you could hypothetically do given your age, education, work history and limitations. This is often where a case succeeds or fails, because a skillful interrogation of the expert witness can often show that a given claimant’s condition is far too limiting to allow them to work.
Finally, know that it’s wise to consider seeking legal guidance prior to your SSDI hearing. This is not something you should tackle alone.