Social Security Disability hearings can be a stressful experience after being denied benefits and not having your application reconsidered. You might have to wait for months or even more than a year to have a hearing scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to reevaluate your claim. Once a date is set, it still does not guarantee that you will be awarded benefits.
However, being able to present yourself in a good light at a disability hearing may benefit your case. It is important to avoid making certain statements to questions the ALJ has asked you to try and answer. Below are some helpful suggestions to follow that may help increase your chances of approval.
Exaggerating or Downplaying Your Symptoms
You will be asked by the ALJ to explain your symptoms. It is in your best interest to not exaggerate or downplay the anxiety, stress, or grief you have experienced. The law does not require you to be incapacitated or bedridden in order to receive disability benefits. All that you need to prove to the ALJ is that your medical condition prevents you from performing daily activities and activities related to your job, therefore preventing you from earning an income.
Being Vague About Your Condition and Limitations
If you are asked a direct question by the ALJ, be sure to answer directly. Do not make any vague statements to the ALJ because he or she is looking for a clear picture of your condition. When asked about the pain you have endured, do not respond with a statement such as, "I have had a lot of pain." Be more direct by providing a rating of your pain on a scale from 1 to 10 and use descriptive words as much as possible when providing answers.
You should also be specific about your limitations when the ALJ asks you about how long you can sit, stand or walk without being in pain. Give an approximate number such as 30 minutes to an hour instead of simply saying, "for a little bit."
Rambling or Going Off Topic
Avoid rambling or changing topics when answering questions posed by the ALJ. Doing so will only cause frustration and may even cause you to lose out on benefits. It is understandable that you may be nervous during a hearing. If you tend to ramble when anxious, you should practice what it is you are going to say to the ALJ prior to the hearing. Knowing exactly what you will say can help you stay on the topic at hand.
Statements to Avoid Altogether
Other statements to avoid saying at a disability hearing unless specifically asked include:
- You live in a town or county where no employers are hiring at the moment
- You have members of your family who are currently receiving disability benefits
- You are not able to get to your place of employment because you do not have a vehicle
- You have a criminal background
- You have failed to follow the instructions or orders given by your doctor
- You have failed to take the medication prescribed by your doctor
- You have problems with alcohol or drugs
Be mindful when answering questions from the ALJ and stick to the truth. It is important to note that what say at a disability hearing must corroborate your medical evidence.
Let Us Help Guide You
The best way to practice answering questions is by working with an experienced Phoenix Social Security Disability attorney from Dayes Law Firm. We have years of experience representing clients at these hearings and can pose questions to you that the ALJ will likely ask.
Learn more about the appeals process during a free, no obligation consultation. There are no upfront fees for our services and we only get paid if we help you recover disability benefits.
Contact our office today at 1-800-503-2000.