It was nothing like a courtroom. More like a conference room. It was just me, my attorney, judge, Vocational Expert and the woman who types out everything that is said. My hearing lasted a half hour. I spent more time waiting in the waiting room than in the actual hearing. I pretty much knew I was approved when I left, but the next 5 weeks waiting on the letter was rough!
There was judge in a robe behind a somewhat raised podium. My judge was typing notes on her laptop the whole time. In front of the judge, there was a bigger u-shaped desk with my lawyer, myself, the medical examiner, the vocational expert, and the woman that taped the hearing. One thing I was glad I read beforehand: When you arrive they will check any bags you’re carrying and use one of those metal detector wands on you. That kind of thing would have freaked me out a little bit if I wasn’t expecting it.
I had a video hearing and it was great. My judge was in Baltimore and I am in Florida. I sat in front of a large video screen and spoke with the judge just like she was in the room. The Vocational Expert was on some type of phone and I could hear him but not see him. I had my hearing on Jan 21 and money was in my account on Feb 14th. I was nervous but I was happier with having it be on video instead of a bunch of people in a small room.
The judge was very nice. He sat at the head of the table slightly elevated and I sat at the other end facing him. My lawyer sat next to me and the court reporter. The vocational expert sat across. The judge asked me questions then asked the Vocational Expert questions. My lawyer asked me one thing I had forgotten to mention. I was nervous before the hearing, but during it I think my adrenaline was high. Afterwards my whole body was shaking! My lawyer was very confident that I would be approved. But I was afraid to get my hopes up. Then I got the approval letter!
I went to my hearing prepared for a fight, what I encountered was much different than I had anticipated. I was very nervous and without a lawyer. I’m 33. I was unable to get a lawyer to take my case because they thought I wouldn’t win.
My hearing lasted 20 minutes. It was a video conference hearing and first thing the judge did was tell me what qualified someone for disability and that I fit the definition. He then asked if I wanted my medical records entered on the record and said it would be in my best interest to do so. He asked me a few questions: “How does your disability affect your ability to work?” “Have your medications affected your ability to do your job in the past?”
He also asked if I had ever earned more than $850 a month and why I chose the onset date that I had. I had been prepared to argue with any jobs the vocational expert would say I could do, but the judge didn’t even ask. All he asked him was what level my previous jobs had been. I had sent in my updated records, which the judge had not received, so he stated he would hold my case open for 7-10 days to wait for those records.
After four long years, I finally received a Fully Favorable decision letter in April. I called the local Social Security office to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t and I was overjoyed and relieved.