B. Grant McNutt

A well-known fact among those in Alabama applying for Social Security Disability Benefits is the chances of success at the initial application stage of the process are abysmally low. Alabama’s allowance rate at the first level of review seems to stay below the national allowance rate.

Requesting A Hearing

So, like the vast majority, claimants who wish to continue pursuing disability benefits, the next step in the process is requesting a hearing. While the possible approval rate does increase, the wait time is often lengthy. The Florence Alabama Office of Hearings Operations is one of the best in terms of process period, but the process itself still takes some time. Their current average is 283 days. That is way ahead of Honolulu’s 472 and Tacoma’s 502 days of processing time. Hawaii is apparently not always a paradise!

Two Pre-Hearing Conferences

While waiting for a hearing date, we will typically have at least two pre-hearing conferences. At the first we typically review the structure of the hearing, from which medical providers we need to order updates and complete a few documents the court requires. We then will schedule another prehearing conference to discuss potential testimony.

The actual hearings with social security are private, usually with only five people in attendance: the Judge, the claimant, the vocational expert and the court reporter and us (your attorney). There is no gallery of spectators listening in like in other courts and right now due to COVID, hearings are actually being held telephonically from the comfort of your home. The other participants will also be calling in from safe locations.

Direct Testimony

Usually, the Judge will start off with a few of what I call “softball” background questions, e.g. name, age, date of birth, address, telephone number, height, weight, level of education and so on. Then the Judge most often will hand it over to us, and we will elicit direct testimony from the claimant about what ails them, with what specifically they have been diagnosed, what symptoms they present and ultimately how it all keeps them from effectively working full time. During the direct testimony, the Judge may ask some follow up questions.

What Does The Vocational Expert Do At A Hearing?

The Judge will then ask the vocational expert about the claimant’s past work, what sort of education and physical abilities were required to perform them, etc. The vocational expert will then respond to a series of hypothetical questions from the Judge, such as:

  • What is the claimant’s age?
  • What is the claimant’s education? Work experience?
  • If subjected to certain emotional or physical limitations, would the individual be able to perform his/her past or other work in the national and regional economy?

Other than saying hello, the vocational expert and court reporter usually don’t have much interaction with the claimant.

The Ruling

The Judge typically won’t issue a ruling at the close of the hearing as they are supposed to put everything in writing. Unfortunately, this can tack on additional months to the process depending on the Office of Hearings Operation’s workload. The whole process as stated earlier just take time and sometime years if the Judge enters an unfavorable decision and you decide at that point to appeal further.

Let A Trusted SSA Disability Benefits Lawyer Help Your Case

If you or your child have been denied SSA disability benefits or suffer from a severe impairment that is expected to last for more than twelve months and that prevents you from doing any of your past or other work or is causing developmental delay in your child, please contact us at Bond & Botes to set up a free consultation appointment to discuss your situation. We would love the opportunity to help you!


Bond, Botes, Sykstus, Tanner & McNutt, P.C.

Web: www.bondnbotes.com

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102 South Court St, Suite 314, Florence, AL 35630

Phone: 256-760-1010 • Fax: 256-760-1023

Office Hours: Monday – Friday • 8am to 5pm

No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services to be performed by other lawyers.