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Understanding disability hearings

As a part of seeking or appealing disability benefits, you may have to appear for a disability hearing. This hearing is generally used to determine the validity of your disability claim, and offers you and representatives an opportunity to present evidence.

If you suspect that you will face a disability hearing, or if your already received notice of an upcoming hearing, it is wise to go in with a strategy.

No matter what your circumstances, it is important to enter your hearing fully prepared. You may have little time to make your case, and without strong preparation, you may not receive benefits that you need and deserve.

Know where to be, and when to be there

If you request a hearing or if the Social Security Administration (SSA) wants a hearing with you, you will receive an official notice at least 20 days before the hearing date. This notice will tell you the date, time and location of the hearing. If you have already received a hearing notice, don't wait any longer to begin building your hearing strategy.

Hearings are typically held within 75 miles of your location, and it is possible to hold hearings remotely through teleconferencing if your health concerns keep you from traveling. If you must travel to appear at a hearing, make sure that you give yourself enough time for travel and setbacks. In many cases, these hearing only last 15 minutes, so it is never wise to be late.

Presenting or defending your claim

During the hearing itself, a judge considers your case and examines the issues in dispute. Simple cases may only involve a judge asking you questions about your disability, how it affects you and its impact on your ability to work.

More complex cases may involve more parties, such as independent experts and witnesses. It is important to understand that you have the right to question any experts or witnesses who present evidence, including those brought to the hearing by the SSA. If you have not had an opportunity to speak on your behalf, you have the right to do so, and to present evidence.

If you hope to succeed at a hearing, you must have a strong strategy going into the room. The sooner you begin building this strategy, the more prepared you are to defend your request for benefits and keep your rights secure in the hearing venue.

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