What Should I Expect at a Disability Hearing to Appeal My Case?

disability hearing before an administrative law judgeIf you were denied disability benefits and unable to get a claims examiner to reconsider your application, the second step of the appeals process is a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ will independently consider any new and existing evidence submitted and the testimony you provide at the hearing to make a decision in awarding you disability benefits.

Our experienced lawyers at Sigman Janssen have helped many disability applicants argue their cases in front of a judge and prepared them for the different questions that may be asked. Knowing what to expect at a disability hearing may improve your chances of receiving approval.

Requesting a Social Security Disability Hearing

You can request a disability hearing online, download and send in the forms or write a letter to your local Social Security field office. All requests must be writing and you must appeal within 60 days after receiving your reconsideration denial notice.

Prior to a hearing, you may be asked to provide additional medical evidence or clarify information in your disability claim. The ALJ assigned to conduct the hearing will have had no part in the original decision or reconsideration phase.

When and Where Disability Hearings Take Place

The wait time from the date the hearing was requested to the date of the hearing can take several months, depending on how long the backlog is in your area. In Wisconsin, the average wait time is between seven to eight months. You will be notified by letter of your hearing location, date and time at least 75 days before your hearing.

Disability hearings are not similar to regular courtroom hearings. They are less formal, not open to the public and are often held in small conference rooms.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, currently all hearings are being held by telephone.

In certain cases, a hearing may be done via video conferencing rather than in person. Those in attendance will include you, your representative (such as a lawyer), the ALJ, a hearing assistant to record the proceedings and one or two expert witnesses.

Your hearing will generally be held within 75 miles of your home. A typical disability hearing is also shorter, lasting between fifteen minutes to an hour.

Having Representation at a Disability Hearing

You have a right to be represented by an attorney at a disability hearing. Disability claimants who have legal representation are more likely to receive a favorable outcome than those without representation.

A licensed Appleton Social Security Disability attorney is ready to help prepare you for the hearing and be there to guide you through the hearing. This includes gathering and accessing your medical records if they need updating and obtaining a written opinion from your treating doctor(s) detailing your condition and limitations. We can also help you practice answering questions the ALJ might ask.

The Judge Will Ask For Your Testimony

During the hearing, the ALJ will ask you to provide testimony about your disability and employability. The Judge or your attorney questions concerning your medical issues, treatment provided, previous work history, educational background and how your condition has impacted your life.

You must also be prepared to discuss any limitations caused by your condition. It is important to answer honestly without exaggerating or minimizing your medical issues. Try to provide specific examples of how your condition impacts your ability to perform daily activities.

The ALJ may even ask for testimony from the expert witnesses as well to provide details about your disability and your ability to work despite your medical issues. The ALJ is simply trying to obtain all the necessary facts to make a decision on whether or not you are eligible to receive disability benefits.

Your Representative Will Argue Your Case at the Hearing

If you have an attorney, he or she will present your case at the hearing. A good attorney should order all medical records you identify to prepare for the hearing and he or she should draft a Pre-Hearing Legal Brief and submit it for the Judge’s review before the hearing. He or she should also be prepared to ask you questions to further show the ALJ how disabling your condition is. Your attorney’s main goal is to get your disability claim approved.

Receiving a Decision After Hearing is Held

You will not receive a decision on the date of your hearing. It can take up to three months, or occasionally longer to be notified of the ALJ’s decision. Generally, you will receive a written decision through the mail outlining the findings of the case and the reasons for the decision. If approved, you will receive a notice of award letter detailing your benefit amounts and the date your benefits will begin.

Otherwise, you can continue to appeal the decision by asking the Social Security Appeal’s Council to review your claim.

Learn How We May Be Able to Assist You

Attending a disability hearing before an ALJ can be stressful and intimidating, but you do not have to do it alone. Our attorneys at Sigman Janssen have decades of combined experience attending hearings and preparing clients for what to expect. We are ready to guide you through this process and advocate for your best interests. Schedule your free initial consultation to get started.

Call (877) 888-5201 for legal assistance.