How to Deal with a Rude or Impolite Social Security Judge (ALJ)

by Editorial Board on November 8, 2010 · 0 comments

in Questions & Answers,Social Security Hearings,Why People Are Denied

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Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) conduct the Social Security Disability hearings for the Social Security Administration (SSA).  ALJs, and the SSA in general, are dealing with a huge back log in cases that take way too long to decide on.  ALJs are under a lot of pressure to issue many decisions a month, to try and clear out their back log.  Although clearing out the back log is a good thing for everyone, the pressure these ALJs are under can create stress for some claimants.

How to Prevent an ALJ from Being Rude to You

Be respectful of the ALJ, their court room, and their time.  Be on time and ready to get started.  Allow the ALJ to lead the hearing through the various stages that need to be covered.  Experienced disability attorneys follow these same instructions, and to some extent go with the flow of each individual ALJ.

Stay on point, and don’t let your answer to one question wander if it’s not relevant to the question asked.  ALJs are busy, and many will not let you talk on and on about something they didn’t ask you about.  It is ok to give a complete answer that takes a minute so long as your answer is related to the question asked.  If you have something you want to share with the ALJ that is not relevant to the question they ask you then save it for later, when the ALJ or your attorney asks you if you have anything to add before the hearing proceeds.

What to do if the ALJ gets Mad in the Hearing

First try and remain calm.  Some ALJs will be a bit rude with the attorney as a way to “flex their muscle” and maybe even intimidate the claimant, as a way of testing the claimant’s truthfulness.  Experienced attorneys know ALJs that are nice people, but who routinely are rude in hearings. Many think the ALJ is just trying to assert their authority to the new people in the room.

If the ALJ is rude to you, either in their questions they ask, or in things they are saying about you, just remember to remain respectful.  The ALJ has the authority to make a decision in your case.  Although you can appeal their unfavorable decision, that appeal may take a year or more, so do not damage your chances of winning by getting caught up in emotions.  Engaging in arguments that escalate out of control will usually not help you.  You would be better off sticking up for yourself by making your points in a respectful way.  Go out of your way to be polite to the ALJ when they are being most hostile to you, and they will usually calm down.

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