If you have an upcoming hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for your Social Security Disability case then you probably have several questions. Most people have never testified in court before, so they have questions about what they will be doing in the hearing. The best advice about getting ready for your hearing is to not stress out over it. Social Security hearings are a relatively informal process, but you should still be prepared for it.
Being Prepared For Your Hearing
Get a good night’s sleep before your hearing, and maybe lighten up on any prescriptions that make you drowsy or tired (if your doctor agrees that is ok). At the hearing you need to do your best job of listening and answering questions. If your medicine makes you mentally foggy, it may be best to skip that the morning of your hearing (if your doctor agrees) so you can be more alert for the ALJ’s questions.
Do not dress up like the hearing is a job interview. Wear what you would normally wear to be comfortable considering your medical problems. In the context of a hearing, looking ready for work does not help you, so focus on being dressed in a respectable way that is comfortable.
Make sure your key medical evidence has been submitted to your Social Security Disability file. If you are represented you will review these details with your attorney. Any last minute evidence should be filed several days before the hearing if at all possible.
Be ready to answer the one question that summarizes what the hearing is all about. In many cases the ALJ will ask the claimant “why do you think you are disabled?” or “why can you no longer work a full time job?” These questions are your chance to share with the judge your theory for why you should win your case. Don’t spend this time talking about things that will not help you, like “the economy is bad”, or “I already tried looking for a job & couldn’t find one”. Keep your answer focused on the limitations you have as a result of your medical impairments. Your physical or mental limitations, and the medical evidence that makes your limitations reasonable or not, are what can make you disabled.
Other real world issues that keep you from working, like the two raised above in my example of what not to do, are not part of the Social Security law, and will not be a factor in whether you are disabled or not. Good disability lawyers always have a preparation interview with their clients to get them ready for the hearing. I always discuss the “why can’t you work?” question with my clients, and help them with a model answer that is consistent with our theory of the case.
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