General Information About the Social Security Disability Hearing
The Social Security Hearing Room
A Social Security hearing room is nothing more than a small conference room. It may have a few official trappings such as the seal of the Social Security Administration or an American flag.
Hearing rooms are always equipped with a conference table. There also may be a small table for the judge’s assistant. Usually there is a judge's desk on a small riser that is slightly above the level of the conference table where you will sit.
The Recording Equipment
Each Social Security hearing room has its own recording equipment, which will be used to record your hearing. Because your hearing will be recorded, it is important for you to speak clearly when you answer questions. The microphones are very sensitive to sound so they will pick up your testimony from anywhere in the room if you speak loud enough for the judge to hear you. However, shaking your head won't do; neither will pointing at a part of your body without stating out loud what part of your body you are pointing at. Also, “uh huh” and “huh uh” answers do not transcribe as well as “yes” and “no” answers. So try to say “yes” and “no” if you can.
Persons Present in the Social Security Hearing Room
You will be seated at the conference table along with your attorney. Under some circumstances the judge may call a vocational witness or a doctor to testify. If so, they will be seated at the conference table.
Also seated at the conference table (or perhaps at a small table next to the conference table) will be the judge's assistant who operates a computer, which is used to make a CD-ROM that will contain the recording of the hearing.
You are allowed to bring witnesses and, if you wish, observers into the hearing room. But the hearing is private. Anyone present other than the judge, the judge's staff and witnesses called by the judge must have your permission.
Social Security Disability Hearings Are Informal
Social Security disability hearings are much less formal than court hearings. They were designed so that they would not be a threatening experience. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that if you can relax as much as possible, you will be the best witness for yourself. It's okay to let yourself be yourself.
Although this is an informal hearing, there are a couple of procedures that are necessary to follow:
- You and all witnesses will testify under oath.
- It is important when you are testifying that you not ask anyone else in the room to help you answer questions and that your witnesses or friends do not chime in to help you testify. Only one person is allowed to testify at a time.