When you appeal an initial denial for Social Security Disability benefits, you have a hearing scheduled before an administrative law judge. An administrative law judge acts as both a judge and a jury in an administrative proceeding. In other words, where the judicial branch has trials in front of a judge and a jury, the executive branch has administrative hearings in front of an administrative law judge.
Most hearings before an administrative law judge tend to be less formal than trials in court. These hearings usually take place in a conference room rather than a courtroom, there is usually not an audience, and the rules of evidence are generally more relaxed. An administrative law judge also takes a more active role in the hearing than a judge would in a trial. At your hearing, it is very likely that almost all of the questioning of you and any witnesses will come from the administrative law judge rather than from an attorney.
In Grand Rapids, there are 8 administrative law judges. There is Judge Kenneth Ball, Judge Michael Condon, Judge Carol Guyton, Judge Douglas Johnson, Judge Nicholas Ohanesian, Judge James Prothro, Judge William Reamon, and Chief Judge Donna Grit. Hearings before these judges will take place at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review at 99 Monroe NW, Suite 300, in Grand Rapids, MI 49503.