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What to expect at an ALJ hearing for SSDI or SSI

This agency hearing is an important opportunity to present your disability claim in detail.

Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income claimants often must fight for benefits beyond a denial of their initial application. Many Social Security claims must go to a hearing before an administrative law judge, called an ALJ. It is a good idea to seek representation by an attorney prior to that hearing because experienced legal counsel will know how to question witnesses and present your case.

If the Social Security Administration (SSA) denies your claim after the initial application, you have the right to request reconsideration, in which the agency reviews the record, including all the evidence of disability in your claim file, especially new medical evidence that goes to the question of whether you are disabled from working. Different people review the file on reconsideration than reviewed the file at the initial application stage. Sometimes the SSA will grant benefits at this stage, but often the denial stands.

If your request for reconsideration is denied, you can ask for an administrative hearing before an ALJ. In this context, "administrative" refers to a hearing that a government agency - here the SSA - conducts. The ALJ performs the function of a judge, although it is not a court hearing. ALJs are employees of the SSA, rather than of the courts. A hearing on an SSDI or SSI claim looks and feels much like a court hearing but is often less formal.

The hearing may be in person or via video teleconference. According to the SSA, live hearings take longer to schedule than virtual hearings. There are 169 hearing offices nationally and ALJs also hold hearings in "remote locations," usually within 75 miles of a claimant's residence. For a hearing over 75 miles from your home, the SSA may pay for certain travel expenses.

At the hearing, you can present updated evidence such as letters from your doctor and medical records from appointments that occurred after the application.

You and your lawyer may bring witnesses to the hearing and will likely be joined by witnesses the SSA might call like a medical expert or a vocational expert. The judge and your lawyer will both ask questions of all witnesses under oath. The following may take place at your hearing:

  • You will be asked about your medical conditions, your symptoms and the limitations your impairments place upon your daily life and ability to perform work activities.
  • You may bring family, friends or colleagues to talk about their observations of the impact of your impairments. For example, do they see you wince from pain? Do they see you stay home and forego activities or have difficulty walking or lifting?
  • A medical expert, who will have reviewed the medical evidence, will be asked about your impairments and symptoms.
  • A vocational expert, who will be familiar with your work history, will answer questions about the likely impact of your impairments on your ability to work and whether those limitations in combination with other vocational factors like your age, education and skills, would prevent you from the ability to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy.

The ALJ issues a decision on your claim after the hearing based on the written evidence and the hearing testimony. The SSA records the hearing so if the ALJ still denies your claim after the hearing, a transcript will be available for an appeal to the Appeals Council or to federal court.

Attorney Robyn Rebers with appointments available in Tualatin and Clackamas, Oregon, represents SSDI and SSI claimants throughout the greater Portland area at ALJ hearings and in the application and appeals process.

Appointments Available at the Following Locations:

Robyn M. Rebers LLC
8215 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Road,
Suite 200

Tualatin, OR 97062

Tualatin Law Office Map

Clackamas location
10121 SE Sunnyside Road,
Suite 300
Clackamas, OR 97015
Map and Directions

Phone Numbers
Toll Free: 800-219-0976
Local: 503-388-4191
Fax: 888-398-8793


At the Robyn M. Rebers LLC in Clackamas County, Oregon, I handle cases of Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income applications and appeals. I represent clients throughout Oregon, including those in Clackamas County, Multnomah County, Washington County, Yamhill County and Marion County, as well as the cities of Tualatin, Clackamas, Portland, Wilsonville, Gladstone, Beaverton, Tigard, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Sherwood, Newberg, Damascus, Sunnyside, Jennings Lodge, Oatfield, Oak Grove, Hillsboro, Sheridan, Molalla, Canby, Happy Valley, Johnson City, Oregon City, Sandy, River Grove, Charbonneau, King City, Aloha, Woodburn, Aurora, Donald, Hubbard, St. Paul and McMinnville.

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