The Social Security hearing office is now called the Office of Hearings Operations, or OHO. Previously, it was called the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), and before that, it was known as the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA).
The Office of Hearings Operations is where most successful Social Security disability claims are finally approved—at the appeal hearing in front of an administrative law judge. (More than half of all claims heard by judges at a Social Security hearing office are approved for disability benefits.)
If you've applied for Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, chances are good that your claim will find its way to the OHO. Here's what you can expect if that happens.
There are 10 regional hearing offices in the following cities:
Each of these regions controls anywhere from 8 to 38 hearing offices in the greater area where the actual hearings are held. Most states have several hearing offices, with larger, more populated states generally having more offices. For example, California has 18 hearing offices, while Rhode Island has only 1.
Appeals hearings (the second level of appeal) are held by administrative law judges (ALJs) at OHO offices. More than 1,500 ALJs work at over 150 hearing offices. ALJs not only hear appeals in disability cases but also Social Security retirement and survivors benefit cases.
Once you request a hearing, your entire file will be sent to your local hearing office. So if you have questions about your claim after that point, contact the hearing office listed on the confirmation letter you receive about your request for the hearing.
Because there just aren't enough ALJs to process the huge volume of Social Security appeals, it takes a long time to get a hearing scheduled. Once your SSDI or SSI case reaches your local OHO, it can take a year or longer for your ALJ hearing date to be scheduled.
(Learn what you can do to speed up the Social Security claims process.)
If you file a Social Security appeal, once your case is transferred to a hearing office, the official correspondence that you'll likely receive is the following:
You should also receive information about alternate hearing methods like telephone and video hearings. And you could receive an exhibit list from the hearing office. An exhibit list is simply a list of everything that's in your file, including copies of:
The exhibit list summarizes what information and medical records the claims examiner considered previously when your disability claim was denied.
If OHO doesn't send you an exhibit list, you should request one. For more information, see our article on reviewing your disability file before the hearing.
Updated September 21, 2023