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Tips for a Successful Social Security Disability Hearing

Claimants who are moving through the Social Security Disability appeals process may have to attend a hearing. The hearing takes place in front of an Administrative Law Judge, with the purpose of determining whether the claimant is qualified to receive disability benefits. Below are five tips to having a successful disability hearing.

Pay Attention to What the Judge is Asking

It is very important to answer the questions posed by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). This may seem simple; however, many people fail to provide clear answers. Focus on what is being asked, then respond accordingly. If you do not understand a question, speak up. The judge will explain his or her question, providing you the opportunity to better answer.

Stay on Subject

The importance of staying on subject and providing succinct answers cannot be overstated. Rambling during your hearing may negatively affect your case. First, the facts of your claim will get lost in translation. The details about your disability and its corresponding limitations will be clouded by the extraneous information. Second, the judge may become irritated by these longwinded responses. If the ALJ interrupts as to move the process along, you may miss the chance to make your point.

It is wise to practice your testimony before the hearing. This can be done with the help of an attorney, family, or friends. The goal is not to have rehearsed answers. Rather, you should familiarize yourself with common questions and practice your delivery. Disability hearings can be extremely nerve-wracking, especially for those dealing with conditions such as anxiety or PTSD. Question-and-answer preparation may help to alleviate the stress and keep you focused during your testimony.

Be Detailed in Your Answers

The purpose of a disability hearing is for an ALJ to cover the facts of your claim and determine if you are disabled. In order for this to be successful, you must be specific in your answers. Use descriptive words to describe your pain: sharp, burning, aching, dull. To take things one step further, explain when, where, and how the pain occurs. Let’s take back problems as an example:

Where on your back does the pain occur (upper, lower, etc.)? When is the pain worse? Is it a sharp pain when you lift heavy objects, but a dull pain when you are sitting? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself prior to the hearing.

Moreover, you should clearly state your physical limitations. Use terms of measurement such as time, weight, and distance. Tell the ALJ you can only lift 30 pounds, rather than declaring you “can’t lift heavy objects”. These added details will make the hearing go more smoothly.

Be Honest

Above all, remember to speak truthfully about your disability. Lying of any kind will weaken your credibility and, as a result, hurt your claim. Exaggeration is still a form of deception and is something that should be avoided during the hearing. By magnifying the extent of your disability, you may be suggesting to the judge that your conditions are not severe enough to warrant benefits.

Furthermore, you should describe each medical condition separately and accurately. Then, state how each disability interferes with your day-to-day life. Perhaps your back condition flares up every few days, but your battle with PTSD is an everyday occurrence. Your back pain inhibits you from sitting for longer than one hour, while your PTSD diagnosis makes it difficult to do public tasks like grocery shopping. Be honest in your limitations; the ALJ does not expect claimants to be totally incapacitated.

Hire a Disability Attorney

There are many benefits to having representation at a disability hearing. First, an attorney will ensure you are prepared for the hearing. The claimant should know what to except and how to present themselves in front of the judge. Then, the attorney will make sure the hearing goes smoothly. He or she may answer questions on your behalf or may lead the questioning. Next, the attorney will guarantee the strong points of your claim are not glossed over. Information the judge believes to be insignificant may actually be pivotal to the case. Finally, disability attorneys have the knowledge and skills needed to win hearings.

Veterans in need of appeal assistance, or those interested in applying for Social Security Disability, should contact Victory Disability. We have attorneys nationwide who will represent you at a disability hearing. Call 1-866-350-7229 or complete our free Social Security Disability Evaluation to get started!