The Judge's Opening Statement at a Social Security Disability Hearing

In a typical hearing, the administrative law judge will open the record, state who is present and note that your attorney is representing you. The ALJ may ask your attorney or you to verify that fact on the record. Most ALJs will make some effort at the beginning of the hearing to put you at ease.

The following may be part of an opening statement by the ALJ:

  1. A statement of the de novo nature of the hearing and that the ALJ is not part of the office that previously denied the claim.
  2. An explanation that a recording of the proceeding is being made and that the official record of the case will consist of oral testimony and documents admitted into evidence of record.
  3. A description of the manner in which the hearing will be conducted including:
    1. one person will testify at a time;
    2. witnesses will be examined under oath and may be cross-examined;
    3. the strict rules of evidence used in court will not be applied;
    4. a reasonable time will be allowed to present oral argument or to file briefs about the facts and law material to the case.
  4. A procedural history of the claim.
  5. A statement of the issues.
  6. A brief description of the documents that are proposed as exhibits, an inquiry whether there are any objections to those exhibits, and admission of exhibits after ruling on objections.

Some ALJs ask if your attorney will waive reading of the procedural history and statement of the issues. Unless there is some unusual issue in the case, attorneys always agree to waive it..