First of all, I just want to thank those who helped me to find resources for finding a lawyer 4 wks before my hearing date (was suddenly moved up by a year). Otherwise, I'm totally confused.... My hearing date was today and I had contacted my lawyer yesterday to tell him that I would be unable to travel to the hearing due to illness and to ask what my options are/were, and after a few conversations and the promise to find out whether or not I could give testimony over the phone, I received a call from my lawyer stating that the judge had decided to approve the claim effective Jan 08, approximately 1 year after I filed the claim. I've actually been unable to work since 2003, but I was so stumped by the whole not-needing-a-hearing thing that I decided to accept the offer--though there was the possibility of not accepting it and going through with a hearing. I'd love to hear from others who have been through this process because I feel like I just landed on the moon. I have no clue what happens next, if I got a good outcome, and, the inevitable feeling of "glad that is settled" and "wow, I'm officially disabled," etc. etc. There was something hopeful about being in the grey area, like 'magical thinking' that maybe something would change everything before it ever came to this. My feelings about 'the system' are pretty abysmal, but here's to hoping that maybe SSD will be a better support than my family has been?! Anyway, is this the norm?