Preparing for your Social Security Disability Hearing
The first and most important rule of any testimony at your Social Security Disability Hearing: TELL THE TRUTH. A claim for disability at its foundation is; an individual’s condition(s) limit his or her work activities to the point where they cannot do their past work or any other work. It does not mean you are bedridden or are in excruciating pain 24 hours a day. For example, if you say that your pain is a 10/10 all day every day, and nothing can be done to alleviate it in any way, the judge will likely find that is not a credible statement. Similarly, if you describe your work history and make it seem as if you performed jobs/functions that you did not, a vocational expert may find you have transferrable skills based on that incorrect information. Therefore, try to refrain from embellishing severity of conditions, restrictions, or past work. It all has indirect ways of potentially damaging your case.
Social Security has published some information on what happens at the hearing:
- The Administrative Law Judge explains the issues in your case and may question you and any witnesses you bring to the hearing.
- The Administrative Law Judge may ask other witnesses, such as a doctor or vocational expert, to come to the hearing.
- You and the witnesses answer questions under oath. The hearing is informal but is recorded.
- You and your representative, if you have one, may question any witnesses and submit evidence.
This can be viewed on their website here.
One extremely important component of your testimony is that the judge finds you a credible witness. That means that your testimony is consistent with all the other evidence in your case (the medical records, questionnaires completed in the past, work history, etc).
A person preparing for a Social Security disability hearing should discuss the strategy for the hearing with his or her attorney in advance of the hearing. However, there are essentially four main areas that should be discussed, either through testimony or documentary evidence submitted in advance of the hearing:
- Your work history and the jobs performed
- Your education background
- Your conditions/medical treatment
- Your daily activities/how your conditions limit those activities
The relevant legal questions in a disability hearing can be answered based on the responses to the above four categories. For a more in depth review of the legal process, i.e. the Five Step Sequential Evaluation process, please do so here.
Ideally, the record should contain most of this information prior to the hearing. Social Security disability hearings are largely won based on the quality of record evidence in the file-which is in there prior to the hearing. As most of the relevant information is (or should be) in the record, the judge may not want to cover everything in detail. Some judges prefer to start asking the claimant questions immediately, whereas others let the claimant’s disability attorney do the bulk of the questioning from the outset. Some hearings can be relatively quick—15 minutes, and some can go on for an hour or so. Every hearing and case is different, so that is where discussion with your Social Security disability attorney will become crucial to your understanding of this process before the hearing.
Our firm of Inverness disability attorneys represent individuals at all stages of Social Security disability claims. We also have office in Tampa, Brooksville, and Inverness. Whether you are looking for a Social Security attorney in Tampa, or a Brooksville Social Security Attorney, we have you covered. Contact our office for a free consultation.