How to prepare for your first hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ)

administrative law judge holding a gavel in court room

We know the disability claims process can be stressful not just for claimants, but every friend and family member involved in the proceedings. At Balin Law, we’re more than just your attorneys; we’re your partners, and we understand preparation is crucial in ensuring a claimant has the highest chance of success when filing for disability.


The Role of an Administrative Law Judge

The role an administrative law judge (ALJ) plays in the claims process. covers this topic thoroughly on their ALJ overview page:

Administrative law judges (or ALJs, for short) are appointed by, and work for, the federal government, delivering rulings in many areas of statutory law. Administrative law judges who work for the Social Security Administration (SSA) render decisions on Social Security disability claims at the hearings level. These ALJs work at ODAR locations (Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, formerly the Office of Hearings and Appeals). Most states have several ODAR offices with a number of judges assigned to each.


Disability Hearings at the Administrative Law Judge Level

  • The ALJ usually starts the questioning process by confirming your name, address, birth date, social security number and highest level of education you’ve completed, which includes any vocational schooling or on the job training.
  • You’ll then be asked about your work history for the past 15 years, including past and present jobs, volunteer work and any jobs that may have given you income not reported to the IRS at the time.
  • The ALJ will want to know what kind of work you’re doing or did and why you left those specific jobs.
  • After covering work history, the ALJ will ask you about your impairments and how they affect your life on a daily basis. Most ALJs will ask you to describe a typical day from morning to evening, including your sleep schedule.
  • For clients with atypical days, the ALJ will ask you to describe good days and bad days.
  • You’ll be asked how your impairments affect your activities of daily living, as well as any medications you’re currently taking for those impairments.
  • The ALJ will also ask you for any additional information not covered in their line of questioning that can help him or her make a decision.
  • Sometimes, the vocational expert will ask the ALJ to ask you questions if he or she feels the need to know more details about your specific work duties.

It can seem like an overwhelming amount of information, but our skilled and experienced attorneys are with you every step of the way. We’ll do whatever it takes to win your case; proper preparation is just the first step.

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What To Expect at a Disability Hearing

Learn more about what it's like at a disability hearing here.