At Dayes Law Firm, we represent clients throughout the disability claims process and at all stages of the appeals process if denied benefits. This includes attending a disability appeal hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ).
For many claimants, having to answer an ALJ’s questions can be rather intimidating. What you say at this hearing could be a deciding factor in whether or not you receive disability benefits.
We are ready to prepare you for what to expect at your hearing, including tricky questions you may be asked. The more you know before going into a disability appeal hearing, the better you can respond to the judge’s questions. It can also increase your chances of your claim being approved. An initial consultation to discuss your situation is free of charge.
Zero Upfront Fees. Ph: 1-800-503-2000
Disability Hearings Before an Administrative Law Judge
A disability appeal hearing before an ALJ is the second step in the appeal process if your disability claim is denied for reconsideration. The judge’s final decision will be based not only on the medical evidence submitted but also on the testimony you provide at the hearing.
Not being able to answer a question, or replying with vague or contradictory answers could harm the outcome of your appeal. If you expect to win at a disability appeal hearing, you must come across as credible.
This is why it is important to have an experienced lawyer by your side. He or she can prepare you for an ALJ’s line of questioning and give you tips on how to respond in a way that reflects your limitations.
Tricky Questions Asked by Judges at These Hearings
Some judges ask more questions than others. Below are a few examples of tricky questions an ALJ may ask at your hearing. While you may not get asked these exact questions, the general topic may come up.
- What kinds of activities do you do? When mentioning an activity, be sure to explain any limitations you may have with doing the activity or if you now require assistance. Ask yourself: How is performing this activity different today versus before you became disabled?
- Why can you not work? It is helpful to describe the medical reasons you cannot work. Medical reasons may include difficulties standing, walking and bending, or lifting and grasping items. Perhaps you have issues focusing, concentrating or remembering things. If you have a mental impairment, you may have an inability to interact with others appropriately in the workplace.
- Do you take care of any children? Be upfront if you are caring for a child. Be sure to mention if you are having difficulty providing the level of care you once did since you became disabled. Perhaps you can no longer perform certain household tasks to aid in their care.
- Can you drive? Being disabled does not mean an inability to drive. It is fine if you drive. Inform the judge if you cannot drive due to your impairment. Perhaps your symptoms include dizziness.
- Are you taking your medications as prescribed? Your medical record will show the medications you have been prescribed. Be honest if you stopped taking your medications. Perhaps you had serious side effects and are looking for an alternative treatment. You do not want to be deemed non-compliant. Explain if you are getting medications from more than one doctor.
- Do you smoke cigarettes? Answer truthfully, even if you just smoke a couple of times a week. Let the judge know if you have tried to quit smoking cigarettes but have found it hard to do so.
- Do you consume or have you consumed alcohol and/or drugs? Your medical record will show if you have used drugs or if there was alcohol in your system. Your disability claim may be denied if the judge decides that your drug or alcohol use contributed to your disability. However, you will be better off if you are candid about any substance use than being caught in a lie.
How to Practice and Prepare Answering Questions
Most questions asked by an ALJ are pretty straightforward and not meant to trick you or trip you up. However, there are certain questions that may be problematic if you are not prepared to answer them.
Here are several important tips to consider:
- Provide concise and clear answers
- Stay on the topic at hand and avoid rambling
- Be ready to explain any discrepancies in your medical record or work history
- Be as specific as you can about your limitations, symptoms and treatment
Above all else, be honest at your hearing. The ALJ will likely already know the answers to any question before asking you. Be sincere even if you are worried that the information provided may harm your claim. No judge expects that every disability claimant is bedridden and unable to do anything at all.
If the ALJ asks what you do during the day, it is fine to say that you can make your bed, prepare a quick breakfast and/or do some light-duty cleaning. You will not be penalized for trying to maintain some type of routine despite your disability. Be sure to describe any issues you have performing those tasks.
Avoid saying words like “never”, “always” and “impossible.” These phrases will mean nothing to the judge. Instead, say “sometimes”, “usually”, “typically” or “when I am experiencing symptoms.”
Having success at a disability appeal hearing comes with preparation. A Phoenix-based Social Security Disability lawyer at our firm is ready to help you practice answering questions asked at these hearings.
Reach Out Today for Experienced Legal Counsel
Our lawyers have years of experience representing clients at disability appeal hearings before administrative law judges. If your disability claim has been denied, we may be able to help.
Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation to review your claim and discuss your options. There is no obligation to move forward after this meeting and no upfront fees if you decide to hire our firm.
Available 24/7 to help: 1-800-503-2000