August 31, 2010

Questions you may be asked at your Indiana Social Security Disability Hearing

You are finally getting prepared for your Social Security disability hearing in front of an Indiana Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). After a long wait to get a hearing, you may be wondering what is going to happen at your disability hearing. Disability attorney Scott Lewis attempts to let his Social Security disability clients know what to expect in the hearing room. Although, in his experience most of the Judges have their own agenda and conduct the hearing a little differently, their is generally a common framework they all seem to follow. Whether you are trying to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits the questions usually revolve around three main areas.  These areas include the following:

  1. Personal information
    • The Judge often asks very general personal questions. These questions may include information about your age, your education, where you live, who you live with, do you have children, are you right or left handed, how tall you are and how much you weigh, among several other questions.
  2. What past work have you performed?
    • In this area the Judge may ask questions such as: did your previous jobs have a title, how long did you work at the job, how did you perform your previous jobs, how much did you lift, carry, stand, walk, and/or sit during those jobs.
  3. What is your medical condition(s) that prevents you from working?
    • The Judge will generally ask you to explain your disabling condition(s). What medical providers you are seeing, what limitations you experience from your disabling condition(s), and what medications you are taking. The general theme here is usually about how your disabling condition keep you from working.

Attorney Scott Lewis likes to meet with his Social Security disability clients before the Social Security hearing to let them know what they can expect. It is important to explain in detail the pain and limitations of your disabling condition. At your Social Security disability hearing if the ALJ could ask if your back hurts, a simple “yes” is probably not the best answer. In the opinion of Mr. Lewis, a better answer could be to say yes, and then explain to the Judge how the pain feels, how often you experience it, and how long it lasts. The intensity and duration of the pain you experience may help the Judge determine that there are no jobs you can perform.

Mr. Lewis encourages his clients to be honest at the Social Security disability hearing. In Attorney Lewis’ experience, if the ALJ believes you are not telling the truth concerning one question, the Judge may not believe any other answers you give. At your Social Security disability hearing, the ALJ usually has an extensive medical record in front of him/her. You may be surprised to know some of your physicians write down things in your medical record such as drug use, alcohol use, and other items you may not believe are important. At times the ALJ may see these things and question the Social Security disability claimant about them. Not believing they are important or embarrassed by these questions, a claimant may not answer them honestly. In these cases, the Judge may find that your entire testimony is not credible.

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