What to Expect at a Social Security Disability Hearing
At an SSD appeal hearing, you may expect the administrative law judge to ask you questions about your work history and your disability. No matter the situation, you should always come prepared.
Questions to ExpectDepending on the specific nature of your disability, you should expect to answer questions such as:
• What formal education or vocational training do you have?
• What previous employment have you held and what duties or responsibilities did those jobs have?
• Are you presently working, or have you tried going back to work since suffering your disability?
• What diagnosis or prognosis have you been given by your treating medical providers?
• What treatments have you undergone? Have your providers recommended treatments that you have not yet undergone, and why?
• Do you experience any side effects of your treatment?
• How does your disability affect your ability to perform personal care or daily tasks of living?
• How much weight can you lift or move?
• How long can you sit, stand, or walk without needing a break?
• How often do you need breaks from work?
• Do you have any other physical limitations, such as restrictions on your range of motion?
• Do you have problems concentrating or remembering things?
• Do you have difficulties following instructions or with problem solving?
• Do you have issues interacting with co-workers or customers?
How to Answer QuestionsDepending on the documentary record, the administrative law judge may only have a few questions for you, or the judge may have many questions. Because SSD appeal hearings normally last no longer than about an hour, you should know how to answer any questions the administrative law judge asks you. Excellent preparation on your part will keep the hearing moving along and help put your case in the best light possible.
Most importantly, you should listen carefully to the administrative law judge’s question to understand specifically what information the judge is asking from you. If you do not understand the question or had trouble hearing, you can always ask the administrative law judge to repeat or clarify the question.
Ideally, you should keep your answer limited to a sentence or two. It can seem easy to give a long-winded answer, especially if you are trying to give the administrative law judge the full picture of your situation. However, by rambling on, you risk losing the administrative law judge’s attention during your answer or forcing the judge to interrupt you or cut your answer off. The administrative law judge may also find a long-winded answer less credible than a direct and succinct answer.
If you are asked about your medical condition, try to give specific examples of your symptoms or physical/cognitive limitations. When describing pain that you experience, try to use descriptors like “aching” or “stinging” or “burning” to clarify. When answering questions about your physical limitations or how long you can perform a task before needing a break, give specific estimates of time (e.g., “25 minutes”), distance (e.g., “one mile”), or weight (e.g., “10 pounds”).
There may be parts of your record that might not help your case. You should also be prepared to explain any harmful facts, such as explaining why you have a gap of time in your medical treatment, or whether you may have become over-reliant or dependent on pain medication.