1. The hearing itself will take place at an Office of Hearing Operations (you might also hear it called “OHO” for short).
2. There will not be very many people there. Generally, the only people present at a Social Security Disability hearing are the claimant (you), your attorney, the Administrative Law Judge (the person who makes the decision), a hearing reporter (this person will make an audio recording of the hearing and make periodic notes on their computer, but otherwise will not speak), and a Vocational Expert (a witness for the Social Security Agency who will, after listening to your testimony, offer their opinion as to what, if any, jobs a hypothetical individual with your impairments is capable of performing).
Sometimes, if the ALJ thinks it is necessary, there will be a Medical Expert (a doctor of some kind) who has read your medical record and listened to your testimony at the hearing. That medical expert will offer their opinion as to the severity of your impairments.
There will be no jury, and there will be no opposing counsel waiting to object to anything and everything you say (it’s not like what you see in the movies or on TV). Also, there will be no spectators (this is to protect your privacy). Witnesses, in most cases, are unnecessary and unwanted by ALJs except for cases involving seizures or blackouts.
3. The hearing will be informal. While you will be sworn in before you give testimony, the hearing itself is more along the lines of a conversation between you, your attorney, and the ALJ.
The ALJ and your attorney will ask you questions about why you can’t work, how your injury/illness affects you on a daily basis, and generally what daily life is like for you. The ALJ will try to get an idea of how severe your injury/illness is, and to what extent it will prevent you from working.
4. As the Social Security Disability Claimant, your job at the hearing will be rather straight forward. You will offer testimony (under oath) about your medical condition, and how your medical condition prevents you from working.
The ALJ and your attorney will also ask you questions (nothing complicated) about your medical condition and what life is like for you living with that condition. Your attorney will then present legal arguments to the judge as to why you should be awarded benefits (just a heads up, this part of the hearing is often very technical, so don’t be surprised if you don’t understand what is happening).
This part of the hearing is also the primary reason to hire an attorney to represent you. There are so many rules and laws most people will mess it up on their own because they are not a disability lawyer. And no, just any old lawyer won’t do.