Your job is to testify to facts, describe your symptoms, give estimates of your limitations, outline your daily activities, and provide lots of examples of your problems. Leave arguing your case to your lawyer. For example, don't use the line that starts "I worked all my life...." or don't say, "I know I can't work."
Do not try to draw conclusions for the judge.
Let the judge draw his or her own conclusions. Don't say things such as, "If I could work, I would be working." Or "I want to work." If you say this, it may cause the judge to think about Stephen Hawking who is in a wheelchair and unable to speak but is the world's leading expert on theoretical physics. There are many exceptional people with extreme disabilities who work; but it is never the issue in a social security disability case that there are others who work. It is also not relevant that there may be people less disabled than you who receive disability benefits.
Do not compare yourself to others.
Popular lines are:
"I know a guy who has nothing wrong with him but he gets disability benefits."
"I know people less disabled than me who get disability benefits."
"If I were an alcoholic you'd give me disability benefits."
None of these comparisons helps your case.
Do not try to play on the judge's sympathy.
It won't help. It might backfire. Judges have heard it all. Your financial situation, the fact that the bank is going to foreclose on your house and so forth are not relevant.
Do not try to demonstrate what a "good" person you are.
Benefits are not awarded to the virtuous. They are awarded to the disabled. Some claimants, perhaps influenced by the rhetoric of politicians, bring up extraneous matters to demonstrate their virtue, thinking that this will influence the judge. Don't do it. This is just like trying to play on the judge's sympathy. It doesn't work. It may backfire.
Do not engage in dramatics.
You are supposed to tell the truth at your hearing. If you are putting on a show for the judge, that is the same thing as not telling the truth. At the same time, however, if you are having a genuine problem at the hearing and you need to stop the hearing for any reason, tell the judge and your lawyer.
Do not give irrelevant testimony.
Social security regulations contain a list of irrelevant areas of testimony -- areas that the judge can't and won't consider in deciding your case. This list is in the regulations:
(a) The fact that you are unable to get work is irrelevant.
(b) The lack of work in your local area is irrelevant.
(c) Hiring practices of employers are irrelevant.
(d) Technological changes in the industry in which you have worked are irrelevant. (Although there are questions about this one.)
(e) Cyclical economic conditions are irrelevant.
(f) The fact that there are no job openings is irrelevant.
(g) The fact that you would not actually be hired for a job is irrelevant.
(h) The fact that you do not wish to work at a particular job is irrelevant.
Also, it doesn't matter that a particular job doesn't pay well enough to support your family.
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