disability hearingDisability Hearing Tips and Suggestions

Many disability applicants who have been denied benefits and now face a disability hearing before an Administrative Law Judge look toward the experience with fear and trepidation. But there is no reason to fear the upcoming hearing if your claim is true. However, even rock solid applicants can stumble when facing a judge, so here are some tips and suggestions to help your hearing go better and for you to present a stronger case.

 

Calm Down. You are not a Criminal

Social Security disability benefits are provided to qualifying beneficiaries as part of an insurance program for which you have paid for over the course of your working career. It is not a government hand-out. You paid for the benefits and as a person who is unable to work you deserve to receive what you paid for.

Unlike a criminal court where you can receive fines or be sentenced to jail, a disability hearing is simply a fact-finding meeting. Questions will be asked during the course of the proceeding and the judge may make a few statements. He or she will probably not even give a ruling on your case. In fifteen minutes to an hour the hearing is finished.

The Facts. Just the Facts.

The judge will want to hear from you, the applicant, more than anyone else. You may have witnesses; however the judge may not even let them speak. Some judges will ask questions directly while others let the attorney take the lead initially. The bottom line is that you will probably be asked several questions directly. Don’t try to guess where the judge is going with a line of questioning. Just answer the question frankly and in one or two sentences. Unless you are requested to explain an answer, don’t wax eloquent. State the facts and then be quiet.

Understand the Question

Take a moment to make sure you understand the question before you answer. If you are not sure what the judge is asking then ask them to clarify it. Many common prescription medications can make your mind clouded and make reasoning difficult. This is something most judges are used to, so don’t let it bother you to better understand a question before responding. If, after asking the judge to re-ask a question, you feel that you still do not understand it then ask your attorney for assistance.

Oh No!

Although not common, it may be possible for you to become flustered during a hearing, especially if you go into it as a basket of nerves. The judge should not fault you if you ask for a minute to gather your thoughts. You can ask for a drink of water to give you a few seconds.

Honesty is the Best Policy

Exaggerations may be good for mimes, but don’t make for good courtroom theatrics. Explain your medical complications and how they affect your everyday life. Be honest without stretching the truth. Your hearing is not the judge’s first rodeo and typically they can spot a liar in a heartbeat. If the judge feels that you are being untruthful they could easily rule against you.

I’m SO Embarrassed!

Many health conditions are private matters. However, this is not the time to hide them. You must be open and honest about your health no matter how embarrassing it may be to talk about. The judge, your attorney, and others in the room have read your court transcripts, so they already know your case have probably heard worse before anyway. This is everyday business for them and they are not allowed to discuss specific cases outside of the course of their work.

 Why Did You?

Many applicants’ medical and work histories do not quite correspond at times. Perhaps you left work, your condition improved and you were able to return to employment for a time. Or there may have been a few months where you were not able to receive medical treatment due to financial problems or physician shortages. Many judges will want clarification about these instances. Be prepared to answer questions about any possible discrepancies in your claim. Hopefully your lawyer has already reviewed them with you to prepare you for questions that may be asked.

Focus on Inabilities

Social Security disability benefits are granted based on how your medical conditions affect your ability to work. Your answers should reflect this. For instance, if you were asked how long you can sit, the answer might be an hour, but then succinctly explain how that would affect your work ability. Many people are able to sit for an hour, move around, then return to their desk, thus remaining employed full time. You, however, might site for an hour and be in severe pain for three or four hours after.

Ultimately It’s Business

Remember that your Administrative Law Judge is not your best friend. Although they may try to get you to relax, the purpose of the meeting is to obtain facts to determine whether you deserve benefits or not. This is not the time to joke, be flippant, condescending or disrespectful. This is truly a serious matter that will affect you for years to come. The judge has the right to ask you any question they deem necessary. Don’t get upset if you don’t like the question or you feel the judge is implying something. Simply answer all questions truthfully and honestly without a negative tone. Always stay professional.

 Here We Go

Entering any new situation can be intimidating. A disability hearing is an important event and should not be taken lightly. Arrive at least a half hour early to give you time to relax and get in the right frame of mind before entering the meeting room. Take a deep breath, look the judge in the eye, talk to the judge and answer the questions honestly. Just do the best that you can. If this hearing does not go well you still have more options to appeal an adverse decision.

 

 

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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers
Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.

 

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