The majority of claims for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are initially denied, which means attending a hearing will likely be a part of the process of getting your benefits approved. You will need to testify before an administrative law judge, but knowing what to expect can help you feel more confident about the experience. Preparing for your disability hearing

Social Security Disability Topics Covered

A disability hearing is not like a criminal hearing with a judge in a robe sitting in a courtroom. In most cases, the hearing takes place in a small conference room. The hearing typically lasts from 15 minutes to one hour and may include vocational experts or witnesses relevant to your case.

The questions asked will vary depending on the specifics of your case but may cover topics related to your:

Medical History 

You can expect to be asked about specific symptoms associated with your condition such as pain, dizziness, or headaches. You should provide detailed answers that demonstrate your specific limitations, but don’t exaggerate your symptoms.

Medical Treatment 

Be prepared to explain what medications you are taking, what side effects they have, other treatments you’ve tried, and how often you see a doctor for your condition.

Physical Abilities 

You may be asked questions about how well you can sit, stand, bend, and lift.

Mental Abilities 

You may be asked questions about how easy it is for you to follow directions, remember new information, or concentrate on a task.

Training and Education 

The judge will want to know about your education and relevant on-the-job training or military service.

Work History 

You will be asked about the jobs you’ve had over the last 15 years, including what your responsibilities were and what skills were required.

Daily Activities 

Questions about your daily activities will refer to hobbies, as well as household chores. Note what you enjoyed before you became disabled versus what you are able to do presently.

Social Security Disability Tips to Remember

It’s normal to be nervous at the thought of having to testify. Here are some tips to help you prepare:

  • You are allowed to request your entire case file before the hearing. Look for information that is missing or inaccurate.
  • As soon as you receive a Notice of Hearing, you should request your most recent medical records from all of your care providers. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to give you at least a 75-day notice, which gives you enough time to gather current records and complete any additional medical testing that might be helpful for your case.
  • Consider asking family members, friends, former employers, social workers, or others familiar with your condition to write statements detailing how your disability affects your employment and everyday life. These statements can be submitted to the judge in advance of your hearing date.
  • At the hearing, you want to stress that you’d rather be able to hold down a job than need to depend on disability benefits. Seeming overly eager to collect a benefit check will make your testimony appear unreliable.
  • Do your best to remain calm and objective. You may feel as though the judge is questioning your honesty, but this is simply part of the process of determining whether you qualify for benefits.
  • Bring a copy of your most recent resume with you, so you can refer to it for dates and employment descriptions. You can also refer to your Medical and Job Worksheet (Form SSA-3381), which you completed during the initial application.
  • Keep a detailed diary of your daily activities for a few weeks before your hearing. Refer to your entries to support your statements regarding your physical and mental limitations.
  • You don’t need to wear an expensive suit, but you should appear clean and well-groomed. Inappropriate clothing shows a lack of respect for the court’s authority.

Have You Or A Loved One Been Denied Social Security Disability Benefits?

If you or a loved on has been denied Social Security Disability Benefits you need to speak with an experienced SSD attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.


Scott Alperin
Experienced Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney Serving Virginia Beach Area Clients Since 1994.