After a hearing is requested it can take up to 18 months for the Oregon Social Security hearings office to set a hearing date. You will be informed of your date and place of hearing at least 20 days in advance. A majority if the time the hearing will take place within 75 miles of your home. If your hearing is held further than that you will be compensated for your travel time.
An administrative law judge will run the hearing. The judge's job is to make an independent decision based on the evidence in your case. This evidence includes medical records, other documents, and testimony you and others give at the hearing.
The judge will question you about your disability. The hearing is private and is held in a small conference room. The only people at the hearing will be the judge, the judge's assistant, you, your representative, and any witnesses. The judge will usually also ask a "vocational expert" to testify and sometimes also ask a "medical advisor" to testify. The hearing will be tape-recorded.
You can go to the hearing with a lawyer. You do not have to have a lawyer, but if you can get a lawyer to represent you, you have a better chance of winning. It is important to obtain an attorney with experience in representing Social Security disability claimants. You should ask the attorney you talk to how many years of experience he or she has with Social Security representation and how many hearings he or she has handled.
• Gathering medical and other evidence
• Analyzing your case under Social Security Regulations
• Contacting your doctor and explaining Social Security Regulations to obtain a report consistent with the regulations
• Referring you to specialists for further medical reports to answer questions raised by Social Security Regulations
• Sending you to a vocational expert for a report on your ability to work
• Suggesting that SSA send you to a doctor for a consultative examination
• Obtaining documents from your Social Security file
• Reviewing actions taken by SSA
• Asking that a prior application for benefits be reopened to obtain more retroactive benefits for you
• Seeking waiver of a time limit
• Requesting subpoenas to assure the appearance of crucial witnesses at your hearing
• Advising you on how to best prepare yourself for your hearing
• Protecting your right to a fair hearing by objecting to improper evidence and procedures
• Cross-examining adverse witnesses at your hearing
• Presenting a closing argument at your hearing
• If you win, making sure that SSA is paying you the appropriate amount of benefits
• If you lose, requesting an appeal of your case to the Appeals Council
• If necessary, representing you in a federal court review of your case
An attorney will usually expect a fee for representing you, and normally you will be charged a fee only if you win your case. The fee must be approved by the Social Security Administration and is usually in the amount of 25% of your back benefits. Talk to the lawyer about the fees when you first contact the attorney. Make sure you understand and agree to any fee agreement you sign.
You will also be responsible for what are called "out-of-pocket" costs of your case whether you win or lose. These costs involve charges by medical providers for copying costs or letters, and in a typical case are less than $100.00.
It is usually very important to prepare for a Social Security hearing. Your chances of winning the hearing are
much better if you take time long before the hearing to:
• Get the medical evidence you need, whether it is obtaining existing records or asking your doctors their opinions
• Think about the testimony you'll give
• Get witnesses who can give information about your disability
It is part of an attorney's job to take care of these things.