Prior to your disability hearing, your attorney will likely make clear to you that it is a very informal type of proceeding. There will not be an adversarial attorney cross-examining you and trying to prove that you are not disabled. You will not have to "take the stand" and sit in a witness box. Your attorney is not likely to object to anything being said in court. In other words, it is hardly an episode of Law and Order.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common question clients ask me is how soon they'll get a decision following a hearing.
One thing that always confuses clients about disability hearings is the role of vocational experts. When you attend a disability hearing, the judge and your attorney will ask you a variety of questions about your past work, your symptoms, and what you now do on a daily basis. A medical doctor or psychiatrist may then offer testimony about your medical history. But then, the hearing will always conclude with the testimony of the medical vocational expert (VE). The judge will pose several hypotheticals to the VE about what sort of jobs you're capable of based on your impairments. The VE then testifies about the types of jobs that are out there that you could potentially perform based on your age, education, and experience, and how many of those jobs exist in the national and local economies. Your attorneys may also ask questions of the VE about what types of jobs you could perform. Indeed these questions can be critical. It is important to make sure that every potential impairment is considered by the VE. Many judge's decisions are overturned or sent back for rehearing because a judge did not consider every impairment that a claimant suffers from. For example, a claimant may have multiple physical and mental impairments, including severe arthritis of both hands. How often an individual can use their hands on the job can have a drastic effect on whether they can perform available jobs. If a judge does not ask the VE about this impairment, it could completely change the outcome of the case. It is also common for judges to fail to consider mental impairments at all in their questioning, which can be particularly important in cases involving claimants over the age of 50 when some disability rules change. Dealing with vocational experts is understandably complex, but having an experienced Social Security disability attorney on your side can ensure the right questions are asked at your disability hearing.
If you have had to appeal your disability application to the hearing level, you should receive a notice of when and where your hearing will take place about two months beforehand.