The prospect of appearing before a judge under any set of circumstances can be nerve-wracking, even for something as inconsequential as a traffic violation, where the worst result might be a modest fine. So, it’s no wonder that even the most deserving of claimants seeking Social Security disability benefits sometimes approach panic-attack levels of anxiety at the prospect of discussing their most private medical information in front of total strangers
Worry not! While your disability hearing is not to be taken lightly, a St. Louis Social Security disability lawyer can help you navigate this process calmly and confidently. Let’s start by reviewing some fundamentals:
Where is the hearing held?
A disability hearing – unlike most hearings and trials – is not conducted in a public forum. Due to privacy laws surrounding medical information and, of course, Social Security numbers, a disability hearing is conducted in an office-like courtroom.
Who will be present?
In most cases, the only people in attendance will be you and your St. Louis Social Security disability lawyer; the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ); one or two staff members; and two or three experts to testify about jobs and offer medical opinions. There is no gallery of spectators, and even friends and family are generally not permitted in the room unless they will offer testimony as witnesses.
What will be the focus of the questioning?
The lack of an audience does not mean you are not in the spotlight. This hearing is all about you, your medical conditions, the minutia of your daily life, and why exactly you think you are “disabled” as defined by the rules of the Social Security Administration. Virtually everything about your daily life – what you can and can’t do – is fair game for questioning.
How can I give my best testimony?
The most important thing to remember at a hearing is this: Be honest. The worst thing you can do at a hearing is be perceived as lying or trying to hide something. Your credibility will be lost, and everything else you say will become questionable in the mind of the judge.
So, for example, if you told your doctor about drug or alcohol use, then you need to admit it to the judge, regardless of personal embarrassment or concern that it will “hurt you case.”
Similarly, if you have good days along with your bad days, you need to be honest about that. The concept of disability, as defined by the Social Security rules, means an inability to perform “substantial gainful activity,” which is essentially the equivalent of a full-time job, i.e. 40 hours a week. Just because you are able to perform one, two, or even three days of work in a week, that is still less than a full-time job and generally will not disqualify you from receiving disability benefits. This misconception, however, often makes claimants hesitant to discuss what they are able to do on an occasional basis, believing that an admission of being able to do something occasionally will disqualify them from benefits. This is not true. We all have good days and bad days, and a few good days should not outweigh the fact that your frequent bad days would prevent you from maintaining full-time employment.
How can I prepare for my hearing?
There are two important steps to take as your hearing date approaches:
(1) Follow your doctors’ advice.
If you are applying for disability, that means you most likely have been treating with doctors for one or more conditions that have prevented you from performing a full-time job, and the legitimacy of your case will be reflected in your medical records. The advice and opinions of yours doctors – and your compliance with and ability to follow their orders, whether by attending therapy, taking prescribed medication, or seeing specialists – will speak volumes to a judge about how seriously your conditions are affecting your ability to work and your daily life in general. You can tell the judge at length about your physical and/or mental limitations, but if the medical records don’t show it, the judge will never be inclined to issue a finding of disability.
(2) Meet with an experienced St. Louis Social Security disability lawyer.
As a St. Louis Social Security disability lawyer, I have represented claimants at countless disability hearings. I will make sure you are well prepared for this important day, so that your testimony will paint for the judge a clear and detailed picture of your daily life and the disabling impact of your medical condition.
To speak with us about your claim, please call or email today to schedule a free initial consultation. Use the contact form on this page or call (866) 463-3171.