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How to prepare for your Social Security Disability telephone hearing

By Jonna May 27, 2020

Until further notice, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is currently holding all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) hearings by telephone due to COVID-19. Whether it take places in person or over the telephone, your hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will be the most critical stage of your application process to date.

Once you receive a hearing date, it is important to begin preparing immediately. As there are a lot of moving pieces that can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, working with an experienced representative who is familiar with the SSDI process can help you prepare your case and get ready to go in front of a judge.

Steps to take prior to your SSDI telephone hearing

While it can take some time to get a scheduled hearing date, things move quickly once that happens.  Updated records need to be requested from medical providers and any outstanding documentation must be gathered, including financial statements and work history.

It is common for many questions to be asked during a disability hearing, as the evaluation process is extremely thorough. This will provide you with a valuable opportunity to present your case for benefits in your own words. Planning and practicing what you will say to the judge is a critical part of your hearing preparations. A SSDI approval is only granted if the judge finds that your disability keeps you from returning to your previous job and learning or adapting to a new type of work, taking into consideration your age, education, and work history.

What to expect at your SSDI telephone hearing

Hearing proceedings typically last between 30 to 60 minutes. In working with an experienced representative, such as The Advocator Group, you will have the attorney assigned to you on the call to ensure your hearing goes smoothly. You can expect the judge to take testimony from you and likely a vocational expert. The judge may also take testimony from a medical expert in some instances. The judge will also allow your attorney to make statements about your claim.

The judge will use the information in your SSDI file to ask you questions about your daily activities. This is your opportunity to explain how your disability impacts you on a daily basis. Your testimony helps to inform the judge’s decision to award or deny the claim.

Work history is also a key topic at SSDI hearings. The judge will inquire about your past job duties, the physical or mental requirements to perform the job, and the resulting impact on your ability to perform job duties with the existence of any medical impairments. If there is a vocational expert present, then he or she will likely answer questions from the judge about certain occupations and how certain limitations would impact the ability to work.

What happens after your SSDI telephone hearing

Once the hearing proceedings have ended it may take anywhere from two to five months to receive a decision from the ALJ. While many judges may make their determination more quickly than this, the decision must be officially written and entered into record with Social Security before it can be issued and considered final.

Wait times vary by office based on multiple factors, such as the volume of claims they are handling and how many decision writers are available.

Ultimately, the SSDI hearing process involves many moving pieces, and it can be difficult to navigate on your own. Working with an experienced representative can help mitigate anxiety and may increase the likelihood of receiving a favorable decision.

Choosing to work with an experienced representative

Many people feel anxiety over “going to court” and not knowing what to expect. Working with an experienced representative and a disability attorney who are familiar with hearing offices and local judges allows you to ask questions and set expectations about interacting with the judge and the hearing environment ahead of time.

Having a professional representative with you at your hearing will allow you to focus on your own testimony so you can thoroughly explain your limitations to the judge. Your attorney will support you during your testimony and make sure all relevant evidence is presented.

Attending your telephone hearing with an experienced attorney also provides you with peace of mind, knowing that you were as prepared as possible.

The Advocator Group has helped over 150,000 clients receive SSDI benefits and can provide you with an experienced local attorney. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you prepare for your hearing.


Nothing in this post is intended as advice or a suggestion to elect or not elect to claim benefits of any kind, including Social Security benefits, nor is it intended as financial advice in any way.  The decision to claim benefits is a personal one that is contingent upon each individual’s unique circumstances.

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