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Questions About the Hearing Process
Administrative hearings are supposed to be non-formal and non-adversarial, but they certainly are not casual. The judge expects you to dress appropriately, but he’s not expecting you to dress as if you were going to work or to be uncomfortable. Many people have to wear loose clothing because they are wearing protective devices such as back supports or knee braces, so formal business attire is usually inappropriate. I like my clients to dress as they normally dress around the house, but with a modicum of respect for the proceedings. Sometimes, people dress in a way that suggests their disability. Many psychiatric clients who have severe problems coping with the activities of daily living, dress sloppily, not having shaved, appear dirty – all of which is suggestive of the problem.
Most judges will question you directly at the hearing, though some judges prefer that your lawyer ask all the questions. At the hearing, your lawyer can ask whatever questions he thinks are important. Generally, you testify as to your medical condition(s), past work history, activities of daily living. Doctors usually supply evidence in the form of written reports, and there are almost always vocational experts available to testify as to what jobs are available in the national economy that an individual can perform.
It depends on the region of the country. Some ALJs have doctors and vocational experts at every hearing. In Ohio, vocational experts are present at almost every (adult) hearing, and medical experts are less common.
Sometimes they do, but usually they do not. Like any judicial officer, sometimes they have questions to think about or additional evidence they want to wait for—such as an updated report from your treating doctor to see whether your condition is still disabling.
SSA has too few people working for them to handle the amount of cases they receive. SSA has for years reduced its work staff. Congress needs to appropriate more money to SSA but has not done so for years. Though some ALJs are fast and write decisions within a few weeks of a hearing, most ALJs are slower and take several months to announce a decision in writing.