The Alj You Get Can Make A Difference
No two judges are alike, and some judges have higher approval rates than others. The ALJ sets the tone and pace of the hearing. Depending on the judge assigned to your case, the hearing may feel confrontational and tense or it can be relatively relaxed and easygoing.
Simply put, the administrative law judge you have for your hearing can impact your case significantly. Unfortunately, you dont get to pick your ALJ.
What Questions Can I Expect To Be Asked
After discussing your past employment history with the ALJ, providing the physical requirements of the jobs and your reasoning for leaving, the ALJ will allow your attorney to ask you specific questions about your disability. Some questions you can expect to answer are:
- What is your diagnosis?
- What treatments have you tried?
- Do your treatments have any side effects?
- How does your disability impact your daily activities?
- How does your disability impact your ability to take care of yourself?
- How long can you sit, stand, or walk without needing a break?
- How much can you lift?
- How often do you need to take breaks?
- Do you have any issues getting along with supervisors, co-workers, clients, or customers?
- Do you have any difficulties concentrating or remembering things?
- Are you depressed?
Making Statements That Can Hurt Your Case
If the ALJ asks you a question directly, you absolutely must answer it honestly. But your duty to tell the truth does not require you to bring up information unsolicited that might be harmful to your case. Here are a couple general areas or statements to avoid unless you are specifically questioned about them.
- You have family members who are receiving disability or unemployment benefits.
- You have a criminal history.
- You have problems with drugs or alcohol.
- You haven’t followed your doctor’s orders or treatment plans.
- You live in a town where no employers are hiring, and
- You can’t get to work because you don’t have a car.
Again, and this cannot be stressed enough, if the ALJ asks whether, for example, your spouse is on disability benefits, you must answer honestly. You just don’t need to offer the information if you’re not asked about it.
Another instance: if you volunteer that “no one’s hiring where you live,” the judge might think that you believe you could work if only jobs were available. Here are some other points you should avoid bringing up at a disability hearing.
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Who Will Ask The Questions
Generally, even if your attorney has questioned you, the ALJ will ask further questions for clarification or to gain additional information he or she thinks is important.
If you have not hired an attorney, the ALJ will conduct the questioning.
It is important that you answer the questions honestly if the ALJ believes your answers are not honest or that you are exaggerating, he or she will take this into consideration when deciding your claim.
How Should I Answer The Aljs Questions
Be truthful and forthcoming at all times. No matter what the ALJ asks at your hearing, you want to answer all questions to the best of your ability. This means you must listen as attentively as you can, so your answer to the judges question is specific.
Keep your answer brief and on point If youre not sure what the judge is asking, ask them to repeat it. Never interrupt, and stay respectful and amiable.
Some claimants want to exaggerate their symptoms and limitations, thinking this will help their chances of winning benefits. This is never a good idea, because the ALJ may believe you are not being honest. The minute that happens, you lose credibility.
Other claimants tend to be stoic and brave and make out like they are more capable of doing activities than they really are. This approach never paints a true picture of your claim.
Just be calm, and be honest in your responses. A clear description of your disabling condition and the effect it has on your life is what you need to portray.
Your disability lawyer will prepare you for the judges questions, help you sort out your questions, and will be at your side to ensure your case is presented with every detail accounted for.
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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 To Know About Your Ssdi Hearing
Before the Hearing
You or your attorney may request a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge . You can request this online or by writing the SSA directly. All requests must be in writing. Once the SSA has received your request, they will assign you a hearing date and a judge. Once your hearing date and judge is set, you can then begin preparing for your case.
It is important to know that the SSA will no longer gather medical records on your behalf. Once your claim is denied, they will stop developing your case. As such, it is up to you to gather medical records and submit them to the ALJ.
At least 75 days before your hearing, you will receive a notice from the SSA telling you the date, time and location of your SSDI hearing. This place will be within 75 miles of your home in general. If you are unable to travel because of your disability, you can tell the SSA you are unable to travel and request a remote hearing.
Day of the Hearing
On the day of the hearing, it is important to dress appropriately. Remember, you only have one chance to make a good impression. You want to arrive in clean and presentable clothing. You do not have to wear formal clothing, but torn, ripped or dirty clothes will just show a lack of respect for the courts.
Be sure to show up on time or even early. Do not arrive late or your case may be dismissed. When your hearing begins, it is important to speak honestly with the ALJ.
After Your Hearing
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Where Will My Social Security Hearing Be Held
SSA will notify you of the date, time and location of the hearing. Approved locations are regional or local OHO hearing offices or satellite locations. Most hearings are held within 75 miles of your home, but sometimes they are further away. Disability hearings may also be conducted via video teleconference , and in some cases may be via telephone.
Rather than a stiff courtroom affair, the ALJ hearing is by design an informal, non-adversarial event. Usually, they are conducted in a conference room or office type of setting.
ALJ hearings generally last from about 30 minutes to an hour. SSA will notify you of the date, time and location of the hearing.
What Not To Say At A Social Security Disability Hearing
Although Social Security Disability hearings are less formal than traditional courtroom trials, they nevertheless cause many people to feel anxious or stressed. These feelings are understandable. The average wait time for an administrative hearing in Chicago is 14.9 months, so youve no doubt waited a long time for a hearing date. Not to mention, a lot is riding on the administrative law judges decision.
Yet while the feelings are normal, they are mostly unnecessary 62% of SSD applications are approved following an administrative hearing. So, chances are more than good that your application will be approved and you will finally get the benefit you deserve.
There are, however, things you can say at an SSD hearing that can put you among the 38% of people whose applications are denied. This doesnt mean you should lie when questioned by the ALJ or the attorneys rather, pay close attention to the question, dont offer more information than what is asked of you, and be careful how you phrase your answers to avoid making it seem like your disability is minimal.
With that being said, here is what not to say at your SSD hearing .
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What Should I Expect To Happen
The hearing is an official proceeding but it is generally not too formal. During the hearing, you can expect the judge to ask you questions about your life, your disability and how youve been affected by it. The judge will then make the best decision he or she can based on the facts in the record and on the testimony provided at the hearing.
During Your Disability Hearing
Your disability appeal hearing may happen one of two ways: either a traditional hearing, where the judge is there in person, or a video hearing, where you speak with the judge via Skype or other video conferencing software. Your attorney will advise you which hearing you will have. If you do have a video hearing, be aware that the judge will still be able to see and hear you.
During the disability appeal hearing, the judge will likely ask you to describe how your conditions affect your day-to-day living and your ability to work. If you have an attorney, they may ask witnesses to testify on your behalf. These witnesses can be medical experts or vocational experts. Your lawyer will question these experts on any limitations you may have as a result of your conditions.
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Why Is A Vocational Expert At My Alj Hearing
Most ALJs rely on VEs to provide expert opinion evidence to help them determine whether you can do your previous work or other work. The VE does not question you he or she only responds to the AJLs or your attorneys questions.
Hearings generally conclude with the testimony of the vocational expert. Questions posed by the ALJ to the VE address issues that could be decisive in your case. The judge will raise hypothetical situations to the VE about:
- what sort of jobs youre capable of, based on your impairments
- the types of jobs that you could potentially do based on your age, education, and experience
- how many of those jobs exist in the national and local economies
- analysis based on transferable skills: .
Your lawyer can question the VE about the types of jobs you can perform. In our experience, vocational expert testimony can often be argued and proven different than what the VE believes.
Likewise, a judges decision can be overturned or sent back for rehearing should that judge fail to consider every impairment that our client suffers from.
As your attorneys, we will see to it that the right questions are asked. We make sure that every symptom, impairment, and combination of impairments you experience, as well as your actual occupational skills and limitations, are properly considered by the VE and the judge.
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.
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Social Security Disability Hearing Tips
After filing for your appeal, you can expect to receive a notice in the mail that will notify you of your hearing date. This notice will be given to you 20-30 days in advance to notify you of your hearing date. Before the hearing you will want to be sure to submit any new medical evidence in your case. The new medical evidence can include any new doctor reports or exams. These documents will need to be submitted to the Office of Adjudication and Review. Be sure that anything you are submitting is no older than 2-3 months. The ALJ will only want to review current information.
The ALJ will also have the opportunity to question your witnesses if they wish to. It is very likely that there will be a vocational expert who will testify at your disability hearing as well. The VE is there to give their opinion as to what kind of job you would be able to do with the medical conditions that you have. Your disability lawyer will be able to question the VE in order to dispute any information that may not be accurate given your condition. After the hearing, you still may be able to communicate with the ALJ if there is additional information to share.
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What To Expect At Social Security Telephone Hearings During Covid
In response to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders by federal and state officials, the Social Security Administration began conducting telephonic Social Security Disability Insurance hearings on an emergency basis.
Our team has now participated in many of these telephonic hearings.
We are happy to report the hearings weâve participated in were pretty smooth and without major issues.
Our experience is the Social Security hearing office conducting the hearing will call both the claimant and the representative after having all other parties already connected.
We were given the option of having the claimant already on the line with us and conferencing into the call or having the claimant in our office.
In our cases, our clients decided to participate from their own home, and we decided it best to have SSA connect all parties in case of a connection issue.
The only issue we ran into was when we had to speak to our client confidentially. We needed to speak out of the presence of the judge and off the record. The conference call was ended and then restarted in a short period of time.
Otherwise, our team did not experience any technical difficulties with the call, the sound, background noise, connections, or participation.
These telephonic hearings do not give a full opportunity for the ALJ to evaluate a claimant like an in-person or on-camera SSDI hearing. But, they seem to be an adequate substitute given the current crisis.
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What To Expect At A Social Security Disability Hearing
For those who have Social Security Disability hearings scheduled, it is likely that you have many questions about what will happen at this hearing and what to expect. By learning more about how these hearings are structured, you will be more than ready for your Social Security Disability hearing.
When a claimants application for Social Security disability benefits is denied, the claimant can request reconsideration of that decision. If the request for reconsideration is also denied, the claimant can continue to appeal the decision by requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge .
How Should I Prepare For My Social Security Disability Hearing
One of the main reasons to hire a Social Security disability attorney is so that your attorney can prepare your case for you. You really shouldnt have to worry about this part of the process. That being said, we will need your help putting together the list of doctors you treated with. We will get your medical records for you, but we dont know who you treated with unless you tell us.
We will also need a medical source statement in most cases. This is a form your doctor completes that explains to the judge your functional limitations. A letter saying you are disabled is not enough. A judge is not bound by your doctors opinion on disability. In some cases, however, a judge may be bound by a doctors opinion regarding functional limitations. Functional limitations are things like your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, reach, handle, finger, etc.
Evidence is generally due five business days prior to the hearing. This deadline is very important.
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Preparing For Your Social Security Disability Appeal Hearing
As the date of your hearing draws near, the Social Security Administration will send you a letter with the exact date, time, and location of your hearing. It is very important that you keep that appointment. If you do not attend your hearing, and you do not have a good reason for not going, the judge may dismiss your disability claim.
If there is a good reason that you cannot attend that day and time, contact your local Social Security office as soon as you can to reschedule your hearing.
If you have a Social Security Disability lawyer, he or she will prepare you for the hearing beforehand by sharing tips on what questions the judge is likely to ask. Your attorney will also help you practice telling your story effectively to the judge.
There Wont Be Many People There
Social Security hearings are not open to the public. If you bring a family member or friend for support, they will not be able to come into the hearing with you. In your hearing there will be yourself, your representative, the judge, a court reporter, a medical expert and most likely a vocational expert. You can also bring witnesses that can attest to your limitations.
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How Formal Is It
Disability hearings are much less formal than hearings you may have experienced in a courthouse. Often, the rooms are small and appear more like conference rooms than hearing rooms. But most ALJs wear robes similar to what you would see in a courtroom and generally sit in the front of the room on an elevated platform. You should stand when the ALJ enters the room and wait until the ALJ has taken his or her seat before resuming yours.
Never wear a hat or chew gum during a proceeding. You don’t need to wear a dress or suit but you should be dressed appropriately. No shorts, t-shirts, or short skirts. Children are generally not permitted to attend hearings.