What Happens During the Hearing Stage of a SSD Benefits Application Process?
Once the file is transferred to the hearing office, here in Tampa, it is about twelve months to get a hearing. Sometimes it is a little longer as long as you do not qualify for the Compassionate Allowance and those types of things! Once you get to that stage and the hearing is set before what we call an ALJ or administrative law judge.That administrative law judge may also bring experts in such as MEs or VEs. MEs are medical experts and VEs are vocational experts. They may do paper reports or they may appear at the hearing. The vocational experts almost always appear at the hearing, the medical experts are sometimes done as a paper review.
The testimony is taken by the judge while you are at the hearing and that testimony is taken from the claimant themselves as well as any witnesses that you may bring. Generally, we advise one lay witness that has been involved in your life on a pretty consistent basis since your onset of disability. Sometimes the claimant themselves are not able to really articulate what is going on with them but a husband, wife, child or a parent has seen the process evolve and they are better able to give testimony on that. Once the testimony is given and the legal arguments are made by the attorney, the judges will sometimes render a decision right there at the hearing but sometimes they do not and there should not be anything assumed by whether you get a decision at the time of the hearing or not.
A decision will be mailed usually within 3 months of the hearing. There are some judges that just do not like to give decisions, good or bad, while they are at the hearing. If you do not get a decision at the hearing, then you have to wait for the paper decision. You have to wait for the paper decision before you are going to get any money anyway and that is normally what we tell people. It is usually a three-month process and that is an average. There are some decisions we have received in as little as a week and a half and other decisions that have taken six months.