In reality, most court proceedings look nothing like what you’ve grown accustomed to seeing on television. Going before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to appeal a denied claim for SSI or SSDI benefits in Texas is no exception.
Disability benefits appeals are informal. They generally don’t take place in a courtroom with a jury box and gallery, but in a hearing office at a Social Security Office of Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Hearing offices at ODAR are set up with a table with several chairs, like a conference room. The judge sits either at the head of the table or a judge’s bench.
Hearings can also take place at the post office, community meeting rooms, or conference rooms at local hotels. The main requirement is that the hearing take place in a private space, where the general public cannot overhear the proceedings.
Your hearing may include:
- Your attorney
- The ALJ
- The judge’s assistant, who records the hearing
- Experts called on for testimony, usually no more than three
- Your spouse or a family member
Prior to the hearing, the ALJ’s assistant will bring you to the hearing office. Hearings usually last around an hour and are recorded so they can later be transcribed.
You or your attorney are usually allowed an opening statement, briefly explaining:
- The medical conditions contributing to your claim.
- Where the ALJ can find supporting documentation in your claim file.
- A summary of how your conditions relate to your inability to work.
- Any key evidence overlooked or misinterpreted by the disability examiner or ALJ.
For your testimony, the ALJ or your attorney will ask you several questions related to your claim, such as:
- Your background and the history of your medical condition or conditions.
- The nature and intensity of your symptoms.
- How your medical condition or conditions impact your ability to function at work.
The most important thing to remember while giving your testimony is to be yourself. Give honest and specific answers to these questions. Don’t underplay or exaggerate the extent of your symptoms. Try to give concrete examples about how they impact your daily life.
If there are expert witnesses at your hearing, they will usually be interviewed by the ALJ next. Experts can be medical or vocational. Additionally, you will be able to ask the judge and expert witnesses any questions you may have related to Social Security, disability benefits, or the qualifying process. The decision will not be made by the ALJ at the hearing, but in the weeks that follow.
Working with an attorney for a Dallas disability benefits claim appeal means that you have a knowledgeable advocate on your side. Set up a free consultation with Morgan & Weisbrod by calling 800-800-6353today. Additionally, ask for our free book, Social Security: What You Need to Know.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.