Dont Be Caught Off Guard By Trick Questions
At Marc Whitehead & Associates, we represent clients at all phases of the Social Security disability benefits application and appeals process, including hearings in front of an ALJ. For many of our clients, the prospect of having to answer an ALJs questions can be an intimidating one.
We prepare them for what to expect at their hearing, including telling them what types of questions theyll be asked so they wont be caught off guard by any trick questions. The more our clients know going into the hearing the better theyll be able to respond to the judges questions, greatly increasing the chances of having their claim for disability benefits approved.
The judges questions will focus on five areas:
Dont Minimize Your Disability
The ALJ will ask you many questions about the disability that you claim to have. It may be in your nature to pretend things are fine and to say you can take perform simple daily tasks. However, when the ALJ questions you, you should be completely honest about your medical conditions. If you have trouble bathing or walking, you should emphasize that. Do not minimize any of your symptoms or conditions.
The ALJ and others in the hearing room are not going to think poorly about you based on your inability to complete tasks. Their job is to help you. Focus on your disability and what the ALJ needs to know about your conditions.
How To Improve Your Chances Of Winning At Your Social Security Disability Hearing
While these tips won’t guarantee that you win your disability hearing, not following them could ruin your chances.
- You will be sworn in and will declare to tell the truth. You must take your oath seriously.
- You should speak loudly and use clear words to give your testimony. This means no nodding, or shaking your head, no uh-huhs or nh-unhs, because an audio recording cannot accurately grasp what you are trying to convey.
- If your testimony requires you to point or indicate a portion of your body, you should also verbally state which body part you are discussing. For example, while pointing to your lower back to show the judge where you are in pain, you should also state, my lower back from behind my stomach down to my tailbone.
- If a question can be easily answered using yes or no do that, but if you need to give an additional explanation, make sure to add that in as well.
- Do not talk at the same time as anyone else. So, wait for the question to be completely asked before you start your answer.
- If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated.
- If you need to take a break, or stand up/walk around, etc., request permission from the judge.
- Make sure to wear appropriate clothing .
- Do not chew gum, tobacco, candy, etc. during the hearing. If you need lozenges due to illness, make sure you alert the judge at the beginning of the proceedings.
- If you are having a telephone hearing, read about our experience with phone hearings during COVID-19.
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The Alj Will Question You
The ALJ who is presiding over the hearing will ask you questions that focus on medical history and ability to function. The ALJ may verify information on your SSD application and ask you how your disability impacts your life. The judge isnt trying to prove that you dont have a disability. Theyre instead trying to determine the extent of severity of any diagnosed medical conditions. You should be completely honest with the ALJ about your conditions and how they affect you.
Our Disability Attorneys Help At All Phases Of The Ssd Benefits Process
At Marc Whitehead & Associates, our experienced Houston disability attorneys represent clients at a Social Security hearing before an administrative law judge. If your claim for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, dont give up.
Call us today at to schedule a free initial consultation meeting to discuss your case. Dont delay strict deadlines apply for filing an appeal.
About Marc Whitehead
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Hire An Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney
Although any attorney can represent you at a hearing, you will want an attorney with extensive experience representing SSD applicants. Social Security is a specialized type of administrative law. The attorney you select should understand the administrative law process and be prepared to present a strong case.
Statistics indicate that SSD applicants who use an attorney are more likely to be approved for benefits. The earlier you obtain an attorney, the better. A skilled lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing and present your case in front of the ALJ.
Your Testimony At Your Social Security Disability Hearing
The following questions are the types of questions that the Administrative Law Judge or your attorney may ask you during your Social Security disability hearing.
Not all of these questions will be relevant to your Social Security case, and for some of the questions the answers may not matter too much to the judges decision about your disability benefits.
However, it is important for your testimony to show your individual limitations, and these questions show you the types of things that may come up at your disability hearing.
Background, Age, Education and Vocational Training
- Name, address, Social Security number.
- Date of birth, age today, age at onset of disability.
- Highest grade completed in school.
If you did not complete high school:
- Did you get a G.E.D.?
If you are not fluent in English:
- Where were you born?
- When did you come to the United States?
- What language is spoken at your home today?
- Who reads the mail at your house?
- Are you able to read in another language?
In mental retardation and similar cases:
- Did you attend regular classes or special education classes?
- How well did you do in school?
- If an 8th grade reading level is average, would you say that youre at least an average reader?
If you are less than an average reader:
- Can you read and understand a newspaper?
- Can you read or write a simple message such as instructions or inventory lists?
If you are illiterate:
1. Job background information:
- How far?
3. Environmental limitations:
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Providing The Alj With The Right Kind Of Evidence
An important service our California Social Security Disability lawyers provide is making sure you have the right kind of medical and other evidence to give a true picture of your condition. If appropriate, we may refer you to specialists to examine you and may request reports from them. These doctors will give an honest appraisal of your disability. Of course, we do not guarantee that they will find you disabled.
If you are receiving Medi-Cal, we will attempt to obtain a comprehensive report from your own doctor. Most doctors charge for preparing a report. If that is the case, we will discuss the fee with you before obtaining the report or referring you.
We will write to the doctors who have examined you, including your own treating doctor, to explain the Social Security regulations. Oftentimes, doctors feel they are writing the kind of report you need, but they may not understand what Social Security requires. It will be much more helpful to you if the doctor writes his or her report with the Social Security regulations in mind.
How Does My Age Affect My Chances Of Winning Disability Benefits
Depending on how old you are, it could be easier for you to get approved for Social Security Disability benefits. One of the main factors Social Security uses to decide your eligibility is whether you can adapt to different kinds of work from what you did before. Your age will affect your eligibility for different kinds of work. For example, maybe you can no longer perform a physically demanding job in a factory, but you still could work in an office. After you turn age 50, the Social Security Administration considers it harder for you to adapt to new work. So the SSA becomes less strict in determining if you could do a different job. As your age advances beyond 50, the SSA becomes even more lenient in deciding whether you should be able to adapt to new work.
Questions About Your Education And Work History
You will be asked to state the highest level of school you completed. You will be asked about any military service, vocational training, and certification programs. You will also be asked about the jobs you have worked in the last 15 years or so. Social Security will want to know the name of the job, the general duties of the job, and the physical demands at each job .
When Will I Find Out Whether The Judge Approved Or Denied My Case
Judges typically do not tell claimants whether the case is approved or denied on the day of the hearing. Your decision will arrive via mail roughly one to two months after the hearing. There are limited circumstances in which the date of a disability hearing can be sped up. However, wait times are fortunately dropping due to Covid-19 for claimants willing to testify via telephone call our office today to discuss whether these limited exceptions apply to your case and to discuss the option of agreeing to a telephone hearing.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Case And Medical Records
You have likely submitted a lot of information to the Social Security Administration in preparation for the hearing. The ALJ will ask you questions based on that documentation. Its best if you are familiar with the information you submitted, as well as your own medical history. It can be easy to forget about certain tests and medical care you have received. You should review this information with your attorney before the hearing.
What To Expect At Your Social Security Disability Hearing Faqs
Most claimants are nervous about their upcoming disability hearings. This is understandable, as it may seem that the Administrative Law Judge holds your future in the palm of his or her hand!
Hopefully these answers to questions frequently asked by our clients and other SSD claimants, will reassure you before you attend your own hearing.
Question: How should I dress for the Social Security hearing?
Answer: The good news is that these hearings are relatively informal. You do not need to dress up as you would for church or for other court proceedings. Although, you certainly can dress up if you would prefer. Please choose whatever clothing you are most comfortable wearing.
As a rule of thumb, though, it is usually best avoid clothes that are: revealing, ripped, stained, or advertise alcohol or other intoxicating or illegal substances.
Question: Do I have to testify?
Answer: Yes. However, this is not the kind of testimony that you may have seen on TV or in movies. You will simply be giving answers to any questions asked by the judge or your attorney.
Question: Will I be cross-examined? Will the other lawyer try to make me look like a liar?
Question: Who will be asking me questions? The judge or my lawyer?
Question: What kinds of questions will I have to answer?
You will probably be asked some variation of the following:
Question: Will my disability lawyer give me a list of questions that he or she is going to ask prior to the hearing?
Question: How long will my hearing last?
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How To Win A Social Security Disability Hearing
Social Security disability hearings are legal proceedings. They take place in front of an ALJ who will listen to your testimony and review your documents. The ALJ will then make a decision about your disability based on what you present in the hearing. The following tips can help you win your SSD hearing:
What Happens At Your Ssdi Hearing
Your appeal hearing provides you with the opportunity to speak to your condition and describe the limitations and implications it has on your life. An administrative law judge will hear your presentation and review all of the facts surrounding your case. The ALJ will inspect all details and aspects of your case and make their own independent judgment on if you will be approved for benefits or denied. A previous denial of benefits will not impact the ALJs final decision.
It is critical that you present your case efficiently and comprehensively so that you obtain the desired outcome of gaining approval. The ultimate decision made by the ALJ is can be unpredictable and even though many people are granted benefits, securing benefits at the hearing is not guaranteed. Working with a Plano SSDI attorney puts you in the best position to get your benefits. Brad Thomas is a Texas SSDI attorney who knows the system and how to skillfully navigate it for claimants so that they are treated fairly and acquire the benefits they are entitled to.
- Describe your symptoms?
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Examples Of Trick Questions
Here are some examples of trick questions asked by judges in hearings:
Do you smoke cigarettes? If you smoke, there is a good chance your doctors records will reference this fact. If you smoke even one cigarette a week, answer this question honestly. Do not say that you are in the process of quitting. If you have tried to quit and failed, tell that to the judge.
Do you drive a car? It is okay if you drive two or three days a week to the grocery store, pharmacy or doctors appointment.
Do you now or have you ever used alcohol, smoked marijuana or used street drugs? Here, too, lab reports in your medical records will show if you have used street drugs or if there was alcohol in your system. You will be denied if the judge decides that your use of alcohol or drugs is a material contributing factor to your disability but you are better off telling the truth about any use of substance than to try to backtrack if the judge catches you in a lie.
Are you taking all your medications as prescribed? Your medical record will show a record of your prescription refills. If you are not taking medications you may be deemed non-compliant with treatment and if you are obtaining pain medications from more than one doctor, you will have to explain yourself. Here, too, an honest sit-down with your lawyer prior to your hearing would be wise.
How Much Does It Cost For Me To Have An Attorney Help With My Disability Case
You pay nothing up front. You only pay an attorney fee if you win your disability case. At Hunter & Everage, our attorney fee is 25 percent of past-due benefits, which Social Security awards you and your family when you win your case. The Social Security Administration established the 25 percent fee as a rule for all attorneys who handle disability cases.
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Can I Still Collect Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits While I Work
You would never choose to have health problems stop you from working. Nobody wants to live on limited disability benefits. Some people continue working part-time while receiving SSDI. But you have to earn below a certain amount to maintain disability benefits. The exact amount changes over time. If the Social Security Administration decides you are working and earning enough to achieve substantial gainful activity, it will stop your benefits.
What Should I Do If Social Security Denies My Claim For Disability Benefits
First, dont give up hope. Most people are denied the first time they apply for Social Security Disability benefits. You should consider appealing the decision. Many claims are won on appeal. The appeals process has four steps:
- Reconsideration First, you can ask for a new opinion from somebody at the Social Security Administration who wasnt a part of your first decision.
- Hearing before an administrative law judge If you still receive a denial after a reconsideration, you can go to a judge, who holds a hearing on your case.
- Appeals Council review If you disagree with the judges decision, you can ask for Social Securitys Appeals Council to reconsider your case.
- Federal Court If you disagree with the Appeals Councils decision, you can file a lawsuit in the United States District Court system.
We strongly recommend hiring a lawyer to help you when you need to appeal. At this stage in the process, you have deadlines to meet and complicated arguments to make.
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What Type Of Disability Is Hearing Impairment
Different organizations classify disability differently. For example, the World Health Organization breaks down the definition of disability into three categories:
- Impairment: This involves the physical structure of the body.
- Activity Limitation: Any typical activity that is limited. Difficulty hearing falls under this category.
- Participation Restriction: This is the idea that either you or society curtails your involvement in certain activities or behaviors.
Hearing impairment tends to fall rather squarely into all three of those criteria.
Other organizations break it down by the level of your hearing loss. The exact classification of disability that would attach to your hearing impairment will be determined by your precise diagnosis. Generally speaking, hearing impairment is broken down into four categories: mild, moderate, severe, and profound .
Questions About Why You Are Disabled
You will be asked to describe the physical and mental health conditions you have and what symptoms you have from those conditions. It is very important to remember that the point of the hearing is to help Social Security understand how those conditions keep you from being able to work. You will be asked to provide examples of your physical and mental limitations: How long can you stand or walk? How much can you lift or carry? Do you have trouble focusing?
Social Security is very interested in descriptions of how your health problems limit your ability to perform work activities. Work activities might include physical actions such as standing, walking, lifting, carrying, using your hands or arms, or bending or moving in other ways. Work activities might also include mental actions such as concentrating, remembering, getting along with other people. If your conditions will cause you to take additional break periods or absences, you should be able to explain these needs.
Being able to provide measurements or frequencies can also be helpful in describing your symptoms. You are the expert on what it is like to live inside your body, so the better you are able to describe your symptoms, the more it will help the Judge understand your limitations.
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