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When you testify at your disability hearing about your limitations that contribute to your disability you should prioritize the message, and tell the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) about your biggest problems first.  Save the minor problems for the bottom of your list to keep the judge’s attention and maintain your credibility.  You should also focus on limitations that significantly affect you in any job, anywhere, in contrast to a limitation that would be easily worked around.

If your limitations are well supported by medical evidence, the ALJ conducting your hearing may decide to include the limitations into your residual functional capacity (RFC) which is a big part of the disability evaluation process.  If the ALJ doesn’t believe the limitation is well supported, he or she may not include that limitation in your RFC.

More limitations make your RFC, or the judge’s opinion of your capability to work, more restricted.  In the real world it’s easy to imagine that a worker would have less opportunity to work as they become more limited.  To win your benefits the ALJ needs to find you are unable to work in any job, anywhere, so long as that job is available in significant numbers in the national economy.  Your RFC will need to be significantly eroded by severe limitations for you to be unable to work in any job, anywhere.

Not all Limitations Are Equal

A critical part of the disability hearing is when the ALJ reads their RFC of the claimant to the Vocational Expert (VE) within a hypothetical question.  These questions generally ask the job expert their opinion as to whether or not a person could work with the listed limitations.  Some limitations can easily be dealt with by the VE, meaning some limitations will not significantly decrease your ability to work.

The most important limitations you should discuss in your hearing are the ones that prevent you from working entirely, or the limitations that affect you in any job, anywhere.  A less helpful limitation brings you less potential jobs, but usually there will still be available jobs that could work around your limitation.  After taking into account your limitations in your RFC if there are jobs available that you can still do, then you lose the hearing.  Your best limitations that can help you win your case would be the limitations that prevent you from performing any job, or the ones that would prevent you from keeping any job.

Examples of limitations that affect you with any job, anywhere, so long as they are well supported by the evidence, would be: taking too many breaks at work due to your condition, being off task at work for too long each day due to drowsiness caused by a prescription drug or your condition, or excessive absenteeism reasonably caused by your condition.  These limitations would not be tolerated in competitive employment, which typically results in the VE testifying that ‘no jobs’ would be available for a person with those limitations in their RFC.

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