August 31, 2015

Being Truthful at Your Social Security Disability Hearing

You may have heard about the guy who leaves his Social Security disability hearing in a wheelchair, throws the wheelchair in the trunk of his car, and walks easily down the street.  Is this an urban legend, or do things like this really happen?  As an Indianapolis Social Security disability attorney I have never seen someone fake an impairment like that at a hearing.  I have had clients ask me, though, whether they should use or wear their assistive devices at their hearing.  My answer is always the same: if the hearing is a situation in which you would normally use your assistive device, by all means use it at the hearing.  Otherwise, leave it at home.

Your credibility with the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at your hearing is very important.  In my experience, if the ALJ thinks you are untruthful about one thing, he may not believe anything else you say either.  Sometimes my clients are worried that the judge won’t be able to see how disabled they are if they don’t make a big deal out of their symptoms.  They go in to the hearing room acting as if it is the sickest day they have ever had.  Believe me, this type of behavior almost always give the ALJ the opposite impression – that the claimant is making things up.  For example, the judge may ask a claimant to rate her pain on a pain scale, where 0 is no pain at all, and 10 is pain so bad that she has to go to the hospital.  I have heard clients tell the judge that the pain they are experiencing during the hearing is a 10.  Obviously, they are not in the hospital; they are sitting in front of the ALJ at the hearing.  In my experience, it is best to be realistic about the pain you experience and try to let the ALJ know exactly how it is affecting you.  A trained, seasoned, intelligent ALJ is able to tell when someone is exaggerating; she also is familiar enough with disabling conditions to know that symptoms are not at the same level of severity all of the time.

An important aspect of my job is to prepare my clients to testify at their hearings.  If you really have a severe impairment that keeps you from being able to work, you are not going to need to put on a show for the judge.  I will work with you to make sure we explain to the judge all of the difficulties you have and how they affect your ability to work.  I have found that the most credible testimony comes from people who are straightforward and honest with the judge about what they can and cannot do.

My interest in Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) cases is to get my clients the money they deserve. I believe by preparing them for the expectations of the Social Security Administration (SSA) they can answer questions in a way that clearly lets the judge know how their impairments affect their ability to work.  In summary, when I prepare you for a hearing, listen to me.  I represent hundreds of clients every year and try to give you my expertise so you can use it to your advantage when you enter the hearing room.

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