Many of our clients get nervous when they find out that they have to appear at a Social Security Disability Hearing. For this reason, shortly before the hearing, we like to take some time to prepare them and explain what will happen during this process. We believe that, the better prepared our clients are, the more likely it is that they are going to win their case. Here is a brief discussion of some of the things that we tell our clients in preparation for a hearing.
First, it is important to keep in mind that a Social
Security hearing is an informal process.
It is not adversarial like most of the court proceedings shown on
television. It is held in a small court
room which is presided by an Administrative Law Judge. The hearing usually takes between 30 minutes
to an hour.
During the hearing, the claimant will be asked to give
testimony under oath and answer questions from his or her own attorney (if the
claimant has one) and the judge. In addition
to the attorney and the judge: a court reporter, an assistant to the judge and
a vocational expert, will be present at the hearing room. The vocational expert will not ask questions
directly to the claimant. The role of
this expert is to assist the judge in determining whether there are any jobs
that the claimant can do based on his or her physical or mental limitations.
The claimant should be prepared to describe his or her physical
and/or mental limitations. In order to
ascertain how severe these limitations are, most judges ask many questions about
the claimant’s daily activities. For
this reason, claimants should be ready to talk at great length about: their
daily chores, their past-times and activities with family and friends. Claimants should be careful not to exaggerate
their limitations. Administrative Law
Judges see lots of cases everyday and can usually tell when a claimant is lying
or embellishing the facts. On the other
hand, claimants should not be afraid to tell their story. The hearing is the best time to tell the
Social Security Administration why a person can’t work. The hearing stage is the time to “lay it all
out” and describe in great detail how the disabling condition affects the
The disability hearing is probably the most crucial step in
a Social Security Disability claim.
Although the process is less formal that other court proceedings, the
claimant should still consider hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer, who
is thoroughly familiar with the process, to appear at the hearing.