Social Security Disability Administrative Law Judge
Once you have filed the Request for Hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will be assigned to your disability claim, and you will be notified of the date and time of your hearing.
The ALJ will review your file and your claim may require witnesses to testify at the hearing. One type of witness is called a Vocational Expert (VE), who will try to find any possible type of work that a hypothetical person with your disabilities could perform.
This is why medical records, forms, and narratives from your doctor are so important as evidence. If your doctor believes you cannot perform certain common tasks that are crucial in the world of employment and indicates as much in writing, the Vocational Expert will have difficulty finding a suitable job for you to perform. For instance, if you have back problems and your doctor asserts that you cannot sit or stand for longer than 15 minutes at a time, or must lay down for 30 minutes every two hours, the Vocational Expert will have difficulty finding a type of employment that will allow for these restrictions and your claim will likely be approved. If you have back problems and cannot get the necessary medical records or your doctor is not supportive, there will not be sufficient evidence to prove that you cannot work.
Another type of witness is a Medical Expert, usually an M.D., who gives an opinion regarding your disability based upon your medical records. Again, it is important to have supportive medical evidence to increase your chances of being approved.
At the hearing, the judge will ask you questions and go through your file (called the List of Exhibits). He or she will also ask for testimony and will clarify certain points of your case. If you have a disability attorney, he or she may cross-examine witnesses to further clarify and correct any misunderstandings. A hearing is usually relatively short and informal.
The ALJ will then take the file back to the office and make a decision, which you will receive in the mail. In some cases, more evidence may be required before he can make a decision, in which case you will be notified. Depending on the ALJ, it may take weeks to months to receive your decision.
If your case is denied, your next appeal will be to the Appeals Council. In some cases, the file is sent back to the ALJ (“Remanded”) for further examination and another decision will be required. For more information, check with your disability attorney or Social Security.