The Hearing Level
After requesting a hearing on your disability case, you face a long wait. Here is a brief outline of what to expect.
The average wait time for a hearing, as of January 2019, varies by office, from 8 months in northern Houston to 24 months for the Chicago National Hearing Center (NHC). This link below will take you to SSA's site and you can see the average wait time for your hearing office. The overall national average is about 15 months.
Waiting for Your Hearing
During your wait for your hearing, what should you do? Here are some keys:
- Make sure you keep seeing your medical providers for all your medical conditions. Make sure you inform them of all your conditions including any side effects from your medication, like sleepiness, confusion, feeling intoxicated, etc. It is important to document everything in the medical records. Also, keep a list of your doctors and when you've seen them.
- Ask your doctors if they will describe your work limitations or how your medical conditions affect you. Their opinions are very important.
- If you have questions, contact your attorney by phone or by email. Avoid calling SSA - they may give you bad information and they are usually not helpful.
Letters From Social Security
During the wait, Social Security will send you letters. You should be careful how your reply to these. Always be honest, but make sure to include all the important details. You can send letters back to SSA directly or send them to your attorney to submit them for you.
The Hearing Itself
Many attorneys believe that they hearing itself is actually the easy part. During the hearing, you and your attorney go to the hearing location and you will discuss the claim with the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
During the hearing, you will answer questions from the ALJ and your attorney. There will likely be a jobs expert there, called a vocational expert, who may also have some questions. Sometimes, there are one or more doctors present to help explain your medical conditions.
At your hearing, the key is to listen and answer questions honestly and completely. Before your hearing, your attorney will discuss the details and prepare you for what to expect. They may give you some tips on how to structure your answers, but they will never tell you to be untruthful or what to say.
After the Hearing
After your hearing, the ALJ will mail his decision to you and your attorney. The decision may come quickly, or it may take several months.
If the decision is fully favorable, you will then have to wait while SSA calculates your payments. If you have long-term disability insurance or workers compensation payments, there may be offsets among your various benefits. You'll want to check on these before spending any of your money.
If your decision is unfavorable or partially favorable, you will want to speak to your attorney about your options right away. You will have 60 days to file an appeal if that is the route you choose. Click here for more details on the appeals process. You may want to file a new claim. It all depends on your case and what the judge said in the decision.