How should I prepare for my Social Security disability hearing?

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A hearing with an administrative judge is the second level of appeals for Social Security disability claims. The judge questions the disabled claimant, witnesses, and applicable medical or vocational experts before making a decision.  Preparing for a disability hearing

Purpose of a Social Security Disability Hearing

The purpose of your hearing is to learn more about the central issues that relate to your application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. These include:

  • Medical conditions and medical history. You'll be asked to provide copies of your medical records, as well as answer questions about your pain levels and any associated side effects of the medications you may be taking. Medical history questions may focus on how often you see your doctor and what treatments have been tried for your condition.
  • Physical and mental abilities. Questions about your physical and mental abilities may vary depending on the nature of your disability, but they could include how long you can walk before needing to stop and rest or how much difficulty you have concentrating and remembering new information.
  • Employment history. Questions about your employment history are intended to uncover the types of jobs you may be able to perform. You can expect to be asked about employment from the last 15 years, including how much sitting, standing, and lifting were involved in each position, as well as what specific skills or education you utilized on a regular basis.
  • Daily routine. At your hearing, you'll be asked about what a typical day is like from the time you get up to the time you go to bed at night. You may also be asked about how your routine has changed since you became disabled, if you’re able to perform home repairs yourself, or if you’re having trouble sleeping due to your condition.

Tips to Prepare for Your Social Security Disability Hearing

It's understandable to be somewhat nervous about an upcoming Social Security disability hearing, but the process will be less stressful if you keep in mind the following tips:

  • Be honest. Do not lie or exaggerate the severity of your symptoms. If the judge senses you're being untruthful or less than forthcoming, this will derail your case. In addition, everything you say at your hearing is under oath and will be recorded.
  • Don't volunteer unnecessary information. It’s not a good idea to offer up unnecessary details about issues that could hurt your case, such as a past criminal record, your lack of reliable transportation, or a poor local job market. You are required to tell the truth when specifically asked about an issue, but it's not necessary to offer up details that aren't requested.
  • Provide specific details. The purpose of the hearing is to determine how your disability prevents you from working. Provide details that are relevant to your industry, such as not being able to lift more than 10 pounds, not being able to walk more than 10 minutes without requiring a rest period, taking medication that makes it unsafe to drive, or suffering from cognitive impairments that affect your ability to read and understand new materials after experiencing a TBI.
  • Clarify your pain levels. Pain is a subjective concept, so this is one area where you need to be crystal clear in what you're experiencing. Describe your pain in terms of frequency and intensity, explaining what you do to try to obtain relief and using descriptive words such as burning, aching, shooting, or throbbing instead of simply saying that something hurts.
  • Make it clear that you'd rather hold down a job. Appearing eager to collect benefits instead of working will not make a positive impression. Maintain a positive outlook when asked about your past work experiences.
  • Plan to show up early. Hearings are generally fairly quick, with many taking about 15 minutes and most lasting less than one hour. Make transportation arrangements in advance to ensure you don't get lost and miss your appointment.
  • Meet with your attorney before your hearing. Your attorney will be able to go over the documentation supporting your claim and offer specific instructions regarding how to best answer issues of concern.

If you don't have an attorney who is representing you must speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.


Barbara Juneau Mixon
With over 3 decades of experience, Barbara Mixon helps clients with the Social Security Disability process.

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