Preparing for your Maine, MA or NH Social Security Disability Hearing, Part II

And so now you’ve been provided with your upcoming hearing date and time and you have no idea what to expect.  In part II, we’ll attempt to make you feel comfortable about the hearing process itself and what you should expect on the day of your hearing.

You can expect you’ll be provided advanced notice of your hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) at least 75 days in advance. Ordinarily, 3-4 days prior to the hearing you’ll receive a recorded message explaining that you should show up to the hearing an hour in advance.  It will be important to read carefully the notice of hearing you’ve been provided in the mail months in advance as it will contain important information such as where and when the hearing will be held, the items you should bring (such as a picture ID)  and what issues will be addressed at hearing.

Upon arrival at the hearing office, you can expect to be met by a security guard who will check you in and will scan you for weapons.  With this in mind, be sure not to bring with you anything that can be construed as a weapon: whether it be mace, a pocket knife or even needles you might require for your diabetes condition (leave this in your car, and should you need to test your sugars, plan on doing this outside of the hearing office location).

Prior to the hearing, your Social Security Lawyer should take the time (days in advance of the hearing) to  go over the basics of the hearing process along with specific issues that will be of concern to the judge in your particular case.  The hearing itself will be a private one, where everything that is said will be kept confidential.  No one is allowed in the room except for you and your attorney, the judge, the judge’s assistant and, potentially a vocational expert and any medical experts the ALJ may choose to call.   It is also important to dress appropriately.   While it’s not necessary (or even ideal) to dress in a suit and tie, one should dress in a manner so as to show respect for the judge who will be hearing your case: for example, a nice blouse/dress shirt or a sweater, with a nice pair of slacks: no jeans or t-shirts. Likewise, unless one’s medical condition requires the wearing of sneakers, a nicer pair of shoes should be worn on the day of your hearing.

Whether in Maine, Massachusetts or New Hampshire, your Social Security hearing will operate in the same procedural format: as part of his opening remarks, the presiding ALJ will introduce themselves to you, explaining that they are an Administrative Law Judge that has been assigned to hear their case, have not been part of any prior decisions and will decide your case as of new (“de novo”) based on the testimony presented, the evidence in the file and the arguments of your lawyer.  They will explain that following the hearing they will issue a written decision that will be sent to you and to your lawyer.   They will also explain (as should your lawyer) that you may get up and down as need be for your medical condition during the hearing, and that there is no need to sit there in discomfort.  If you have, let’s say a back problem, you should feel free to get up and down as need be without needing to ask for permission.   You will need to testify loudly enough for both the judge to hear you (and so your testimony is clearly picked up by the recording microphone in front of you).   Thus, it will be necessary that your testimony is verbal (with words) and not with gestures (such as shaking one’s head in agreement) or with an”uh huh.”  Do not try to answer a question you do not understand or may have missed: simply ask for the question to be repeated.   The presiding ALJ (or your counsel) will be happy to repeat or clarify the question being asked.   If you don’t know the answer to the question: do not guess (as this can certainly lead to credibility questions if wrong).

Most hearings take approximately an hour, and rarely is it the case a hearing will go on any longer than 2 hours.  If you are faced with a hearing and you have yet to find yourself counsel, it’s never too late to call a lawyer to assist you.  The presiding ALJs always prefer that claimants have the benefit of legal counsel.  Thus, should you or someone you care for, find themselves in such a circumstance, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 and we’ll be happy to see if we might b(as otherwise a judge may in turn question your credibility if you , and the extent to which you do not and this will save you .