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What Do You Need to Do to Prepare for Your Social Security Disability Hearing?

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How To Prepare For A Social Security Administrative Law Judge Hearing

If your initial application for social security disability (SSD) is denied, you can request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) within 60 days. At the ALJ hearing, you will have the opportunity to provide personal testimony and your medical evidence of disability. A vocational expert will be present to offer testimony regarding your past work, job availability in the current labor market and any skills needed to perform certain jobs. In some cases, medical experts may also present testimony to the judge regarding your medical impairments.

Watch: Attorney Rita Shoka tells you what she can do to help if you’ve already been denied Social Security Disability.


Most applicants find themselves feeling nervous or intimidated by a hearing with an ALJ. These can be very normal emotions considering all that will evolve based on the judge’s decision. Knowing what to expect, including the kinds of questions you’ll need to answer, will help. Be prepared to provide personal information, background on your employment history, your medical issues and disability evidence as they relate to your limitations and possibly some behavioral questions.

1) Be Prepared To Release Personal Information

Although you have already included this information in your SSD application, these common questions related to who you are will be asked again:

  • your full legal name
  • Social Security number
  • mailing address
  • age
  • date of birth
  • height and weight
  • marital status

The ALJ will also want to be informed about your education level as well as any specialized vocational training or other career-related certificates you’ve completed that are related to your skill level. Sharing these details can affect your current employability working in certain fields or specific kinds of jobs.

2) Providing Information on Your Job History and Current Employment

An ALJ will expect you to answer several questions about your employment history and collect information about your current employment situation. They will ask in detail about how your disability affects your ability to work. Be prepared to answer these types of questions.

  • Are you are currently working?
    • If yes, who are you currently working for and what is your role?
    • If no, why are you not working?
  • Have you tried to work since the onset of your disabling condition?
    • If so, what was the outcome?
  • How long did you attempt to work once you noticed the onset of your disability?
  • What were you doing when you noticed your disability?
  • Why were you not able to continue with the job or why did you leave your job?
  • What job did you have at the time you became disabled?
  • What were the specific job duties at the time you became disabled?
  • Before you left this job, did your disability ever cause you to miss work?
  • Did your disability cause you to do a poor job, change job description, or change the hours of your typical workday?
  • What were your dates of employment and your reason for leaving?

It is likely you will also need to present your employment history going back fifteen years, with names of employers, dates of employment and job duties and even hourly or salary earnings.

3) Disability, Limitation Issues, and Medical Evidence Will Be Presented

The ALJ will ask specific questions about your disability and the limitations related to it. You will be asked to also address any other medical issues you have or other limitations including those that affect your ability to go about caring for yourself and perform your daily activities, like cleaning your home, preparing meals, driving, caring for your family as a parent, or shopping for yourself.

Presenting information and documentation about your disability, date of diagnosis, how it has progressed, and how it affects your ability to work and the impact on your daily life will be most important. Bring every medical document and record with you and refer to it often. The information you give will be presented as medical evidence and crucial information for the ALJ.

These additional sample questions will be specifically related to what your ability to perform normal job duties is and if you are able to hold gainful employment.

  • How long you can sit, walk, stand, drive, or move with ease?
  • How much you can lift or carry?
  • What size load can you handle?
  • How often do you need to stop duties because of your condition?
  • Do you have to ask for help ever to complete your duties?
  • Are you able to safely climb, twist, stoop and bend?
  • Do you ever need to take breaks because of your condition?
  • Are you able to concentrate and perform duties with clarity?
  • Do you have any issues which affect your ability to get along with coworkers, supervisors, friends or family members?
  • Questions addressing drug and alcohol problems will also be covered in your disability hearing.

Knowing these questions and your answers to them beforehand can be critical in proving your case before the judge. It is always in your best interest to get the help of an attorney to make sure all the details about your case are accounted for. They can also present you with a list of questions likely to be asked based on your specific disability case.

Most of all, remain calm and always be truthful. Make sure that you have taken the time to go over all the details in your case and are ready to present the facts with supported material. After your hearing, the ALJ will issue a written decision and send you or your representative a copy of the decision or dismissal order.

Michigan’s Social Security Disability Attorneys

The attorneys at The Lee Steinberg Law Firm can significantly increase your odds of success in your Social Security Disability claim. We see many clients who could have saved themselves months of frustration and waiting if only they had sought the assistance of an experienced Michigan Social Security attorney while completing their initial application for benefits. Not only can we help you understand the different ways of applying for benefits, but we will also fight hard on your behalf throughout the difficult process.

Whether you are inquiring into your eligibility for benefits, beginning the process of filing a claim, or have already been denied, we can help. Contact our offices at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form to get started with a free consultation.

Video Transcript

If you receive an unfavorable determination – in other words, if you have been denied of the initial application – you can give us a call and we will conduct an intake with you over the telephone or in person, and make a determination of whether we are in a position to take on your claim. If we are in a position to take on your claim, we will file a request for a hearing to see an administrative law judge. The average wait time at this point for an administrative law hearing is between 14-18 months, depending on the jurisdiction and where you live.