Preparing for a Social Security disability hearing can be a daunting task. For many of my clients, they have gone over two years without work. Their financial lives are in shambles and they are in desperate need of receiving better medical care. It seems as if everything comes down to this one important day. I can understand why many of my claimant’s feel anxious about preparing for their Social Security disability hearing. Below, I have provided answers to some of the most common questions that people have when getting ready for their hearing.
Who will be at my hearing?
Your hearing is before an Administrative Law Judge who only hears Social Security cases. This is a hearing, not a trial. It is not like what you may have seen on television. The only people in attendance will be your attorney, the judge, the judge's hearing assistant, any necessary experts, and you.
What is a medical and vocational expert?
The medical expert reviews your medical records in your case and provides testimony on what limitations you have. The vocational expert (job expert) testifies on how the work force will accommodate or deal with different types of limitations.
What does the hearing room look like?
The hearing is in a room with a long table. You will sit at one end and the judge sits at the other end. Your attorney will sit next to you. Any other experts or hearing assistants will sit at the table as well.
What questions will I be asked?
The judge will begin by asking you to raise your right hand and swear to tell the truth. Many times the judge, or your attorney, will ask you questions that are designed to clarify the extent of your medical problems and work limitations. The judge is under a lot of time constraints and does not want the hearing to go over 60 minutes. This limits what an attorney can say. I recommend that you and your attorney prepare for this by submitting medical records and other arguments prior to the hearing. This will maximize your chance of having a persuasive impact on the case before the hearing even begins.
What should I wear?
Do not dress up for your hearing. Wear something comfortable; clothes that you would normally wear on an average day. Do not wear a hat into the hearing.
Should I take medication that morning?
Continue to take all of your medicine, as prescribed.
Can I bring someone else to testify with me?
Friends or relatives are allowed to accompany you and are usually allowed to observe the hearing. However, many judges are not pleased to hear from additional witnesses. This is mostly due to the time constraints of the hearing.
How should I testify?
Tell the truth; do not exaggerate or minimize your problems. When the judge asks questions about your medical problems, explain your symptoms or limitations as if you are speaking to your doctor for the first time. Help the judge know where your symptoms are, what makes them better or worse, and how bad the symptoms can get. The judge also wants to know how these medical problems limit your ability to work and take care of yourself.
When the judge asks about my activities of daily living, what should I explain?
If the Judge asks you about your typical daily routine, explain, as much as you can, how your life has changed. For example, if the judge asks if you clean your home, do not just say yes. Explain how you clean, what assistance you get from others, what breaks you take, what kind of work you avoid, etc.
What should I do if I did not understand the question or do not know the answer?
Don’t answer. Just explain to the judge that you did not understand or do not know the answer.
What if I need to get up before the hearing is over?
The hearing is supposed to be informal. If you need to get up or leave for whatever reason, ask permission, and the judge will accommodate your needs.
What is the Packard Law Firm’s single most important advice about preparing for a Social Security hearing?The judge’s number one fear is giving Social Security benefits to someone who is not truly disabled. If you’re reading this, then the odds are you (or someone you know) are disabled from full-time employment. I strongly believe that the truth is the most persuasive thing you can share. Let the truth sell in itself. Look at the judge straight in the eye and try to focus on helping him or her understand what your medical problems and limitations are; not on memorizing and saying “the right answer”. Above all, be genuine and sincere; be yourself.