Should I Request a Hearing?
Claimants can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. However, depending on where the claimant lives, it can take months to get a hearing.
The Nature of a Hearing
The hearing process is supposed to be non-adversarial. It is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who gathers information and finds facts. No government attorney or other representative is present at the hearing to argue that the claimant is not disabled and should be denied benefits.
If the claimant has no attorney, the ALJ is supposed to develop the record and gather evidence.
The ALJ is empowered to grant benefits without calling on experts for testimony. While the medical and vocational experts called by the ALJ's are paid by Social Security, they are directed to offer impartial testimony. By and large, however, expert testimony is used to deny benefits.
In the event that a judge hands down an unfavorable decision, and the Appeals Council finds that experts were necessary but the judge didn't call them, the unfavorable decision might not stand.
Players at a Hearing
There are various individuals involved in a hearing, all of whom have specific functions.
There are also some typical scenarios that are played out at a hearing. They include
- ALJ questions the claimant
- Attorney asks questions
- ALJ questions the medical advisor
- ALJ questions the vocational expert
- Cross examination of witnesses