Disability Hearing – no lawyer? Learn what to expect…

Help! I have a Disability Hearing!

hearing with no lawyerWhat if I don’t have a lawyer at my hearing?

If you decide to handle your SSDI/SSI appeal and hearing on your own, here is what you can expect:

First, your hearing begins with the administrative law judge (ALJ) explaining how the hearing will be conducted. Then, he or she reviews the procedural history of the case and the issues involved.

Next, the ALJ will advise you that you have the right to representation, and attempt to determine if you are capable of making an informed decision about whether or not to proceed without representation (no lawyer).

The judge may ask you questions like:

  • Did you receive the hearing acknowledgement letter and its enclosure(s)?
  • Do you understand the information contained in that letter, specifically concerning representation?

What will happen you did not receive this letter? The judge will provide you with a copy and let you read it. He or she will answer your questions, including explaining your options regarding representation.

If the judge decides to allow you to proceed without an attorney, he or she will have you sign a “waiver of the right to representation.”

This waiver will say something like:


Received Prior to the Hearing

I understand my right to representation at the hearing. I voluntarily waive this right, and I request to proceed without a representative. I also acknowledge that I received a list of organizations that provide legal services prior to receiving the Notice of Hearing.

What if you change your mind about having an attorney?

If you tell the judge that you have changed your mind, he or she will usually postpone the hearing so you have time to find a lawyer. In this case, you will be asked to sign an “acknowledgement of postponement in order to obtain representation.”

This form will look something like:

Acknowledgment of Postponement In Order To Obtain Representation

I have requested a postponement of my hearing so that I may obtain a representative to help me in my claim for benefits. I understand that I am entitled to have only one postponement in order to obtain a representative (either an attorney or other qualified representative) and that any subsequent hearing will be rescheduled at least 75 days from the notice of subsequent hearing, unless I waive the right to the 75-day notice requirement.

I have been advised, both orally and in writing, that if I do not have a representative by the next scheduled hearing, I must be prepared to proceed with the hearing without a representative and, absent extraordinary circumstances, no further postponement will be granted in order for me to get a representative.

Keep in mind; you are WAIVING YOUR RIGHT to representation. Do not take this decision lightly. Please weigh all options carefully before waiving any of your rights.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, please read about how these lawyers are paid. Social Security created these payment rules to help claimants get the help they need (but otherwise, could not afford.)

If we have not answered your questions about what to expect at your disability hearing, please keep checking back! Or, leave your question in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Best wishes on your upcoming hearing!

Originally published: November 21, 2017

 Last updated: November 21, 2017 at 8:19 am

More articles in the “Help! I have a Disability Hearing!” series:

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DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this web site is intended to convey general information. It should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. It is not an offer to represent you, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

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