I would like to spend a little bit of time answering some routine questions I get about ALJ hearings.
Where will it be?
You will need to look at your Notice of Hearing to determine where your hearing is. The Notice of Hearing will give the time, date, and location of your hearing. I was reminded of this simple lesson recently when certain Grand Rapids hearings started to get scheduled at the Field Office instead of the ODAR office. The location of the hearing will also be on the form called Acknowledgement of Receipt (Notice of Hearing). I advise clients to arrive about 45 minutes early. This usually gives a person enough time to get lost, find the building, find a parking spot, and still have time to check in before the hearing.
Who will be there?
A typical hearing has only a few people in the room. The judge will be there, along with a hearing monitor. The monitor makes sure a good recording is made in case anybody needs to listen to the audio of the hearing. You will be there – well, at least if you want a decent shot to win your case. There is usually a Vocational Expert at the hearing too. This person tells the judge what type of work you did in the past, and he or she will also answer some hypothetical questions regarding a person with the same age, education, work experience, and ability to do work-related activities.
Can I bring witnesses?
You can always ask to have a witness testify. Some judges will allow it, some judges say no, and other judges are somewhere in between.
Is it open to the public?
No, it’s not like a regular court room where people can wander in and out. If you are not part of the case, you will not be going into the hearing room.
How long will the hearing take?
There is no good answer to that question. I have had hearing that lasted five minutes, and I have had hearings that lasted two hours. It depends on the claimant, the judge, vocational expert, the evidence, and about a hundred other things. I would say the average hearing takes about 40 minutes.