October 19, 2009

Social Security Disability Hearings & The Quality of Your Testimony

Indiana residents filing a claim for Social Security disability benefits may find themselves answering many questions when they finally appear in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The quality and credibility of your testimony may have a big impact on the outcome of the hearing.
questions.JPGWhile there is no one answer on how to give testimony at a Social Security disability hearing, there have been few things that I have experienced as Indianapolis Social Security Disability Attorney that clients should be aware of when addressing the ALJ. 

I advise my clients to always be honest when testifying.  Many Administrative Law Judges have done hundreds if not thousands of Social Security disability claims hearings and can typically detect when a claimant is not being truthful.  Some judges may try to catch a disability claimant that is trying to tell a lie by asking questions that often lead the client into contradicting their previous testimony.  So, it is my belief that honesty is always the best policy.

Stay focused.  If you are being questioned about your “back” impairment, try to stay on that subject.  The other impairments you experience will hopefully be covered through more questioning.  It is important to elaborate on your disability, letting the judge know how it interferes with your life, the severity of the pain you experience, and the side effects the medications may have on you, among other things.  It’s critical that you get this information across to the judge.  

Inform the judge of the things that you cannot do. Many people do not want to admit they have a disability that hinders their ability to do daily activities.  When attempting to obtain disability benefits, at times you will need to swallow your pride.  If you need help with daily activities such as grooming, laundry, cooking, etc. it is important to inform the judge of these difficulties.  This is no time to pretend you are a superhero when you are not.  Remember, you are at the hearing to prove that you are disabled so take that opportunity to share the facts.

Always remember that the judge is trying to decide if you can work.  Don’t let non-supportive information become your only reason for wanting disability benefits.  The fact that it is a bad economy and that is why you cannot find a job has nothing to do with your disability.   Additionally, the judge does not want to hear that you don’t understand why you can’t get disability when there is a neighbor receiving Social Security benefits and there is nothing wrong with him. At the hearing, it is about you and why you cannot work due to your disability.

Be likable.  The judge is a person just like you.  I am not saying to go out of your way to compliment him on his robe, but attempt to come across as someone that, at a minimum, he might be able to identify with.  With that being said, he or she does understand you may be in pain or have a mental illness, but I believe it may hinder your chances of winning if the judge cannot wait for the hearing to end because of what he or she perceives as an attitude problem.   

I believe these are just a few helpful tips when appearing before an Administrative Law Judge.  These are only based off of my experiences and other attorneys may have other ideas regarding the same issues.  If you would like to discuss your Social Security disability claim, contact my office at (317) 423-8888.

Filed under:Hearings Process
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