There are a number of steps you can take on your own to prepare for your Social Security disability benefits hearing. Lakeland disability lawyer, Mark Kaylor explains a few below.
Plan to show up early. All too often, disability applicants have trouble getting where they need to be on time. If you do not have a car and public transportation is not reliable, reach out to others and find one or two people that can give you a ride to the hearing and take you home. Family, friends, non-profits, and religious organizations are frequent sources for help. Your Lakeland disability lawyer may not be a good source for assistance, as he may already be at the building helping other applicants or focusing on their preparation for your hearing.
Your need to be ready to provide strong and convincing testimony to the administrative law judge about your physical and mental impairments. This does not mean you should prepare a rehearsed speech, especially because you probably will spend most of the hearing answering questions from your attorney or the administrative law judge. Your testimony is a large subject, so this article will be limited to the basic testimony requests about the severity of your impairments and work history.
Severity of your impairments
Most of the administrative law judge’s questions will be about your physical or mental impairments and the effects these impairments have on your ability to take care of yourself and possibly work at a job. Your answers to these questions help the judge understand the effects these impairments have on your life in a way that the judge would not be able to learn from other evidence such as medical records and your work history.
Your testimony should identify the impairment or combination of impairments that cause your limitation, what kinds of activities the impairment prevents you from doing, and give the judge a good description about the pain and other limitations you are struggling with and how they limit your ability to function on a general basis. Since your testimony could make or break your claim, it is important to be clear, convincing, and avoid the appearance that you are lying to the judge. Below are the two major categories of questions that you should be ready to discuss with the judge.
Daily Living Activities: The administrative law judge will want to know what you can and cannot do to take care of yourself and others. This will help the judge determine the kinds of activities you may or may not be able to perform on a worksite on a regular basis.
If you are limited by physical impairments, the judge may ask you about your ability to lift, carry, and move objects of different weights. The judge will likely discuss the amount of time you can spend sitting, standing, walking, stooping, or crouching at one time and the amount of rest you may need to recover from these activities. The judge will probably ask about your ability to push and pull with your arms and legs, as well as your ability to use your hands to perform basic movements like sorting objects and precision movements like typing on a computer. These questions will help the judge understand how your impairments limit your ability to use your hands, which is very important to do most kinds of work.
The judge’s questions will be based on normal experience, such as carrying a gallon jug of milk, driving a car, cooking, and using a computer. In some cases, the administrative law judge may ask you about certain environmental conditions that might make it hard for you to breathe, such as your ability to tolerate places that are dusty, have chemical fumes, are very hot or cold, have bright lights or loud noises, and so on.
If you are including complaints of mental impairments in your claim, the judge will ask about your ability to interact with other people, focus on a single task, and be able to concentrate on a particular goal or project. These questions will likely include factors such as how you interact with family, whether you can make and keep friends, interact with the general public, shop in stores, drive a vehicle, use public transportation, and how much support you need from family or friends to take care of yourself. By learning the extent that you can take care of yourself or others or rely upon others, the judge hopes to learn your ability to work with other people as customer or coworkers. They judge may also ask whether and what frequency you may be hospitalized due to your mental impairment and the effects your medications have on your ability to think and function.
Work History: The administrative law judge will probably also ask you questions about your work history. In these instances, the judge usually has good information about the places you used to work, the amount of money you earned working in these places, and when you stopped working. The judge’s information comes from tax filings by your previous employers as well as reports from doctors in your medical records. The judge may ask you for details about the work you performed and the conditions in which you were working. The judge might also need to know of any special accommodations the job gave you, what difficulties you had doing the work, your physical and mental condition after completing one day and one work week at the job, or anything else that might show any limitation on your work performance from what a normal employee would do at the position and whether you would be able to do this work sustainably.
The administrative law judge’s questions about your past work are very important because they help the judge understand the kinds of challenges you face when trying to work. From this information, the judge will create a description of the kinds of work environments someone like you might possibly be faced with when seeking work. This theoretical job discussion is very important for your claim since it may be what causes the judge to conclude that there are not a reasonably large number of jobs available that you could be able to perform. If there are not enough potential job opportunities in our region, the judge will be forced to determine that you are disabled. This is why it is important for you to try and remember what you did at these jobs and the effects the work had on your physical and emotional health. During this portion of the hearing, the judge will speak with a vocational expert. You should not interrupt or argue with the vocational expert while they are testifying.
You should talk with your Lakeland disability lawyer or their staff about whether you should bring any additional evidence with you. Usually you will have already provided all the medical records needed for the hearing, including documentation of any recent treatment records for your physical or mental impairments. Your attorney might ask you to bring empty containers of your medications for the judge to see, although this is an unusual request. You should also be aware that arriving at a hearing using a wheelchair, cane, brace, bandage, or other medical aide that was not prescribed by a medical treatment provider could make the judge suspicious and less likely to believe your testimony describing any physical impairments at the hearing.
Solid preparation before the hearing will reduce your nervousness and improve your odds of success.
Title: Preparing for Your Hearing / Kaylor, Kaylor & Leto
Meta description: Taking these several preparation steps will help improve your odds of success at your Social Security disability benefits hearing.