What Should You Expect at a Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing?

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Posted by Corey Luedeman

If your initial application for Social Security Disability benefits has been denied, you have the right to appeal that decision. There are several levels in the appeal process. The majority of disability cases in Iowa require a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge before they are approved.

Getting a Disability Appeal Hearing Takes a Long Time

The process for getting a hearing is very slow – from the time you request a hearing until you actually see a judge is 18 months or longer.  The reason for the delay is that there are thousands of disability cases that are waiting on hearings.  More people than ever are applying for disability benefits, and there aren’t enough judges to hear their cases in a timely manner.  Budget restrictions mean the Social Security Administration can’t hire the enough judges to clear the backlog of cases.

We understand that this delay can mean dire financial need for some people.  If you need financial assistance and live in Linn County, there are resources available to you.  If you live in another county in Iowa, we encourage you to contact some of your local resources for help.

Preparing For Your Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing

As the date of your hearing draws near, the Social Security Administration will send you a letter with the exact date, time, and location of your hearing.  It is very important that you keep that appointment.  If you do not attend your hearing, and you do not have a good reason for not going, the judge may dismiss your disability claim.

If there is a good reason that you cannot attend that day and time, contact your local Social Security office as soon as you can to reschedule your hearing.

If you have a Social Security Disability lawyer, he or she will prepare you for the hearing beforehand by sharing tips on what questions the judge is likely to ask.  Your attorney will also help you practice telling your story effectively to the judge.

During Your Disability Hearing

Your disability appeal hearing may happen one of two ways: either a “traditional” hearing, where the judge is there in person, or a “video” hearing, where you speak with the judge via Skype or other video conferencing software.  Your attorney will advise you which hearing you will have.  If you do have a video hearing, be aware that the judge will still be able to see and hear you.

During the disability appeal hearing, the judge will likely ask you to describe how your conditions affect your day-to-day living and your ability to work.  If you have an attorney, they may ask witnesses to testify on your behalf.  These witnesses can be medical experts or vocational experts.  Your lawyer will question these experts on any limitations you may have as a result of your conditions.

Pitfalls to Avoid During Your Disability Hearing

There are certain pitfalls you want to be certain to avoid during your disability appeal hearing.

  • Don’t exaggerate your conditions.

The judge has seen hundreds of people applying for disability.  They will likely be able to tell if you are misrepresenting your symptoms.

  • Don’t minimize your symptoms.

On the flip side, don’t downplay your conditions so much that it’s difficult for the judge to tell why you need disability benefits.  Be honest in your answers.

  • Don’t be vague or unclear in your answers.

Be truthful and complete when answering the judge’s questions.  If you forget to mention some details earlier in the hearing, speak up and let the judge know.  This will be your only time in front of the judge, so make it count.

After Your Disability Appeal Hearing

Be aware that it’s likely you won’t receive a decision from the judge during your hearing or that same day.  This is a surprise to most people.  The judge usually does not make a decision on your case right away.  The judge will review your case and issue a decision via letter within 2-3 months after your hearing.

If the judge has denied your claim, you can appeal this decision through the Appeals Council.  A Social Security Disability attorney can help guide you through the next steps of your appeal.  If you need help with your disability claim, call RSH Legal at 1-319-774-1542 or visit our website,

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