Social Security disability hearings are unique judicial proceedings. The hearings are non-adversarial and lack many of the legal formalities one would typically expect to encounter. Generally, the hearings are very brief and informal. The hearing will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge who handles only Social Security cases, and their dockets can be very full at times. As these hearings are brief, it is important to make every second count.
Here are some common mistakes, and some ways to avoid them, to better prepare you for your Social Security disability hearing:
Ensure your medical records are accurate, complete, and fully updated
It is imperative to your claim to have medical records that are complete and accurately submitted prior to your hearing. The hearing is your opportunity to ask the Judge to reevaluate your claim for disability: the Judge cannot make a fully informed decision if there are records or evidence that is missing or incomplete. You are your best historian, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not know what treatment you are receiving if you do not update your medical records.
Stick to the facts
At the hearing, it is your job to provide examples of your problems, outline your daily activities, give estimates of your limitations, and describe your symptoms. You should avoid drawing any conclusion for the Judge and focus strictly on testifying to the facts. It does no good to compare your case to someone else’s, play to the Judge’s sympathy, or engage in the dramatics. You will be placed under oath, and your testimony is expected to be honest – it will likely do more damage to your claim if you exaggerate your limitations.
Speak in your own words
Remember this is your claim. While it is important to refresh your memory, you should not try to memorize what you are going to say. It is natural to be nervous while testifying, but you should know that your hearing will be made into an audio recording. It is imperative that you speak clearly and slowly despite the nerves you may feel. You should listen carefully and respond orally to all questions asked (a nod of the head will not be captured on the audio recording). Think before you speak and fully explain your answer, but do not volunteer information that falls outside of the question asked.
Be able to articulate why you believe you are disabled
This is not to suggest your testimony should be scripted, but you should be able to clearly and completely articulate why you believe you are disabled. Think of this as your “elevator pitch” and know how to respond when the Judge wants to know why you cannot work. What keeps you from working? What would working look like specifically for you? Be prepared to provide complete and concrete reasons for why you believe you are disabled because I can’t work is usually not enough of an answer for success.
Do You Need Legal Advice from an Experienced Social Security Attorney?
It can be a challenge to navigate the SSA rules and regulations, but you don’t have to go at it alone. When dealing with such circumstances, it is to your advantage to seek legal advice from a skilled social security attorney. With such an advocate in your corner, you will push toward a positive outcome for your legal case.
Whitcomb, Selinsky, PC and our sister firm, the Rocky Mountain Disability Law Group (RMDLG), have demonstrated skill and experience dealing with SSDI, SSI, and related matters. If you need legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance. You can reach the attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky, PC, or RMDLG by phone at 1 (866) 476-4558 (toll-free) and (303) 534-1958 (toll) or online by completing a simple form on our website.