How to Prepare for Questions at an ALJ Hearing

Posted on behalf of Phillips Disability, P.C. on May 22, 2018 in Appeals

judge reviewing documentsIf you are appealing your Social Security Disability claim to an administrative law judge (ALJ), you need to be prepared to answer questions from the judge or your attorney at the hearing. Your answers could be a deciding factor in whether you receive benefits.

The tips below will help you prepare so you can give the judge appropriate answers to any questions you are asked about your disability, work history, or the ways your disability affects you each day.

The reputable Phoenix Social Security Disability attorneys at Phillips Disability can represent you at every stage of the process of applying for benefits. We offer a free, no obligation consultation and do not charge legal fees unless you receive benefits.

Prepare for Commonly-Asked Questions

ALJ's typically ask questions about certain topics, including:

  • Work history – The ALJ might ask you about your previous work history, beginning with your most recent job and the jobs you worked before. Plan to discuss the jobs you held within the last 15 years, including your position and job duties. You may need to testify about how much weight you had to lift, the skill level required for the job and how much physical exertion the job required.
  • Education – The ALJ may also ask you about your education, including the degrees or accreditations you have received and how far you went in school.  
  • Medical condition – Even though the ALJ will have copies of your medical records, he or she may want to hear you discuss your medical condition in your own words, including your diagnosis and the treatment you have received. Be prepared to discuss the side effects of any medications you are taking and the limitations your disability places on your ability to work or perform other activities.
  • Daily activities – Be prepared to discuss what a typical day is like from the moment you wake up to when you fall asleep, including the challenges you face because of your medical condition. For example, if your condition causes you to fall or get easily worn out you should make sure to mention it to the judge.

Answer the Question

When your disability attorney or the ALJ asks you a question, listen closely and address the specific issue you are being asked about. Try to keep your answer brief while providing enough details to completely answer the question. If you did not understand the question, ask the ALJ to repeat it.

Disability claimants sometimes get flustered and start to ramble on about subjects that are not relevant to the question they were asked. The problem with rambling on is that the ALJ may just stop listening or interrupt you.

Be Honest

Some claimants do not want to be perceived as helpless and may try to overcompensate for this by pretending that they are more capable of doing things than they really are. They may think that an ALJ will admire them for their strength despite having a serious medical impairment. However, overstating your physical abilities may lead to an ALJ finding that you are not disabled.

Another mistake that claimants make is to exaggerate their medical problems. They may feel that they have to make their symptoms or limitations appear worse than they really are in order to receive disability benefits. However, exaggerating your disability can make the ALJ believe that you are not being honest and can affect your credibility. Your medical records may tell a different story than what you are personally reporting. Once your credibility is in question, anything you say may be doubted.

The best way to avoid either of these situations is to be honest in your answers. You can provide a general answer but also state when there is variation. For example, you may say you ordinarily experience a level five out of 10 on a pain scale, but at times when you have experienced excruciating pain, it was an eight or nine.

Paint a Picture

It is important that you be able to provide a clear picture to the ALJ about your impairment and its effect on your life. Be prepared to explain how your life has changed since the onset of your impairment. Provide details and examples to the judge. Let the judge know if you have to rely on others for help with basic activities. Be prepared to be able to provide clear information about the pain you experience.

Contact a Lawyer for Help

The experienced Phoenix Social Security Disability lawyers from Phillips Disability can prepare you for an ALJ hearing. We will carefully review your medical records and your account of your disability to help you answer questions accurately.

Schedule a free legal consultation today to discuss your situation and find out if we can help you. Our disability attorneys at Phillips Disability only get paid for the services we provide if you are awarded benefits.

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