In a typical Social Security Disability hearing there will be five people in the room total: the claimant (you), your attorney, the judge, a vocational expert and a hearing monitor. Occasionally, there could be a medical expert and other witnesses to testify on your behalf.
You, as the claimant, at the disability hearing will be put under oath and will answer questions from the judge and your attorney. These questions will involving the last 15 years of your work history and also why you are unable to work. The questioning is not what you probably are expecting; it is more conversational. The judge wants to know your symptoms, what activities you can and cannot do and why. It is not like what you see on television.
Your social security attorney will be at your hearing. He or she will have prepared for you hearing by reviewing your medical evidence, your work history, and discussions with you. The attorney may also write a pre-hearing brief. This is a document that sets forth the theory of the claim (why you should be granted a favorable decision under the Social Security Act).
The Judge is the person that decides if you are disabled under the Social Security Act. This person runs the hearing. They will have prepared for the hearing similar to how your attorney did. At the beginning, they will discuss some procedural matters with your attorney (for example: is the record complete, has the hearing process been explained, etc.) and then they will ask you questions. The judge will likely ask for some background information, your work history, and most importantly why you are unable to work a full-time job. The judge will allow your attorney to ask follow-up questions. After completing your testimony, the judge will have questions for the vocation expert.
The vocational expert is an expert on jobs in the national economy and how these jobs are performed. The judge at your disability hearing will ask the vocational expert to classify some or all of your prior jobs. Next, the judge will ask the vocational expert hypotheticals based on work-related limitations. The vocational expert will respond that a hypothetical person could either do your past work, could do other jobs, or no jobs. When the judge has finished questioning the vocational expert, your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-exam the vocational expert.
There could also be a medical expert at your hearing. This person is a medical doctor and they will discuss your diagnoses and the objective evidence that supports this. The judge may ask how your medical diagnoses limit your abilities to work. Again, your attorney has the opportunity to cross-examine this witness.
You and your attorney can also provide witnesses. These would be individuals that know you well and can testify what they have observed regarding your physical and/or mental health.
Finally, the hearing monitor is in the room to make an audio recording of the proceeding. They will be taking notes on a computer and monitoring the recording to make sure everyone’s voice is being recorded properly.
These people are the people that you will see in your Social Security hearing. It is a closed hearing and no one else will be allowed in your disability hearing.