How to help yourself at a Social Security Disability Hearing.
1. Tell the Truth – This is the easiest advice and yet some people have difficulty with it. The Administrative Law Judge has reviewed your file and will know if your testimony is inconsistent with your previous statements and what your doctors say. Exaggerating or embellishing the truth will only harm your credibility. If you lose your credibility before the judge, the judge has no reason to believe what you say about your limitations. The judge also has no reason to believe what you have told your doctors. Tell the truth and you will keep your credibility and help your case.
2. Testify Thoroughly – This is not the time to give short answers and keep quiet. This is the time for you to tell your story. No one knows your conditions and limitations better than you do. So give the judge all the details about what you can and can’t do. Tell the judge about your past work history and why you can’t do those jobs anymore due to your limitations. If you don’t tell the judge, the judge may not know the full extent of your injuries. Medical reports are inherently short, so this is the chance for you to give the judge more to look at than a couple of sentences on a medical record. Tell your story and let the judge know the real you.
3. Study your Past- You will get questions about your (1) Education, (2) Employment, (3) Medical History, (4) Symptoms and Limitations (both physical and mental, (5) Daily Activities. While you might think you know your past off the top of your head, this is often harder than it looks. It makes sense to review your history a day or two before the hearing so you are prepared to testify effectively. Studying helps even if you’re studying yourself! So take the time to review your past so that it doesn’t sound like you are searching for answers when testifying about what you do on a daily basis. Studying will also help you give more thorough answers to the judge because you will already be familiar with the basic facts of your past. This will give you the opportunity to tell stories about how your limitations affect you on a daily basis or how you had to quit your last job because of your symptoms. Study hard and you will be a much more effective advocate for yourself.