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Learn What Happens at a Northern California SSDI Claim Appeal Hearing

Where will my hearing take place?

For the most part, claim appeal hearings are fairly informal. Your hearing will probably take place in one of the hearing offices at a Social Security Office of Adjudication and Review (ODAR) facility.

The room will probably remind you more of a conference space than a courtroom. Many of them are set up with a large conference table surrounded by chairs. The Administrative Law Judge deciding your case will either sit at the head of the table or a judge’s bench at the front of the room.

Individuals who aren’t a reasonable distance from an ODAR facility may have their hearing elsewhere—appeal hearings have taken place at hotel conference rooms, post offices, and school buildings. It’s important that the hearing happen somewhere the public cannot interfere with the proceedings.

Who will be at my hearing?

The number of attendants can vary, but the average is around 5. Included may be:

  • You
  • Your attorney
  • The ALJ
  • The judge’s assistant
  • Zero to three medical and vocational experts
  • Your family member

What will happen at my Social Security disability claim appeal hearing?

Hearings last about an hour, and are usually recorded on audio to later be transcribed.

The judge’s assistant will greet you in the waiting area and bring you into the office. In most cases, you are allowed an opening statement, where you or your attorney can offer a short summary about:

  • The nature of your impartment or impairments
  • The location of collaborating medical evidence in your exhibit file
  • How your medical issues limit your ability to work
  • Any important evidence misinterpreted or overlooked by previous decision makers

Next, the judge or your attorney will interview you about your claim. You’ll be asked about:

  • Your background, education and work history
  • Your impartment or impairments
  • What your symptoms are like
  • How your symptoms affect your capacity to complete workplace tasks

When answering questions, be respectful, honest, and specific. Don’t misrepresent your symptoms by making them seem like they are any more or less difficult to deal with than they actually are. Try to offer a few detailed examples about how your symptoms affect your daily activities.

After your interview, the ALJ will speak with any expert witnesses at the hearing. After they have finished giving testimony, you’ll be able to ask the ALJ and experts any questions you have about Social Security, disability compensation, or the eligibility standards. Your case is usually not decided at the hearing, but after the judge completes his or her decision process.

A claims appeal hearing can be a frightening thing to prepare for alone. If you’re ready to learn more about what an experienced Tehama disability lawyer can do for you, call the skilled Ledgerwood Law Group at 888-761-7383, or fill out the online contact form.


Thomas Ledgerwood
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Proprietor Ledgerwood Law Group