What to Expect During a Social Security Disability Hearing
The questioning in a Social Security disability hearing are designed to get testimony from the applicant about how their medical problems prevent them from being able to work. Some administrative law judges like to begin by questioning the client. Other judges prefer that the attorney starts with the questions. It depends on the administrative law judge (ALJ). It is good to be prepared to receive questions from the ALJ and the attorney.
There are initial questions about basic identifying information such as name, birth date, Social Security number, marital status, living situation, education, drivers license, the type of work that the individual used to perform, and, if they are currently employed, the types of activities they do for their current job. People should look forward to an administrative hearing because it gives them a chance to speak to Social Security face-to-face about what is keeping them from working. The hearing is not adversarial; meaning the person seeking benefits is not on trial. The hearing is their chance to speak to Social Security in very plain language.
Questions About Past Employment
The administrative law judge is interested in any work the individual has done in the past 15 years so they should be prepared to list those jobs. The information should include the type of job and the activities done on a day-to-day basis in those jobs. It is important to review that information prior to the day of the hearing. The judge is interested in how much weight was lifted, pushed, or pulled on the job, how much standing or walking was done on the job, and things of that nature.
The judge must consider whether the person is able to return to their previous work. The only way the judge can determine that is when he or she has details about the types of job duties the past work entailed.
Questions About Physical Abilities
The job description and duties are the main focus of the hearing and there are many questions. For example, if someone is experiencing chronic pain, the judge asks where that pain is located and how the pain manifests itself. The hearing will include many other questions about the person’s physical abilities, and whether there are any memory or concentration issues.
Judges like to hear about a person’s typical day. It helps the ALJ evaluate the types of activities the person engages in on a daily basis. For example, do they fix meals? If so, how difficult is that process? Other questions may be asked about daily activities such as household cleaning duties. The main purpose behind these questions is determining what the individual can do with the limitations they have.
Questions About Medical Care and Treatment
The administrative law judge wants to know where the individual was treated, which doctors, and which providers treated them. It is very common for the attorney or the administrative law judge to ask where someone received their medical care and what type of treatment they received from those providers.
At some point in the hearing, the judge asks what medical problems keep the individual from working and then they ask where they are treated for each of those problems.
Value of an Attorney During Hearings
When the judge asks questions of someone, the attorney must allow the judge to ask the questions and allow the individual to answer those questions. The attorney can write down lists of questions that the judge did not cover in enough detail. For a hearing, an attorney is allowed to ask their client questions as well. The attorney will have discussed the case with the individual in great detail, so that he or she knows the right questions to ask them.
The attorney is also allowed to make an opening and a closing statement.In an opening statement, the attorney can present his or her legal theory of the case, why the attorney thinks the claimant is disabled under Social Security’s rules. The closing statement can tie up the testimony and the evidence from the medical records, in a way that helps the judge understand the real legal theory of the case.
Administrative Law Judge’s Decision
Most judges will issue a written decision. It is possible to receive a decision on the spot but that occurs less frequently. The judge is able to make a bench decision, where the judge issues the decision on the record. Otherwise, the individual must wait for the written decision that comes in the mail.