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June 2011 Archives

Social Security Hearing approaching? What should you consider?

Do you have a Social Security hearing coming up?   Keep the following in mind.... If you're like most people  applying for Social Security Disability merely reaching the hearing stage has taken a long time.  You're probably a little anxious about what is going to happen.  This article will give you an idea of what's going to happen and what you need to remember for the day of your hearing. First, the basics, double check your hearing time and location.  Showing up at the right office on time is the most important step!   Remember you need to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled time. The Judge may be running early. Also, you need to meet with your attorney to go over any last minute issues.  If there have been any changes to your medication list since you last met with your attorney, now is the time to let them know.  Also don't forget your picture ID-you need this to check in! During the hearing, remember, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is a Judge and you are in their courtroom.  Always refer to the ALJ as "Your Honor", "Sir", or "Ma'am."  Be polite and respectful.  Speak  clearly. The ALJ will start by swearing in you and any expert witnesses.  If you don't swear on a bible, always advise your attorney.  Also remember to pay attention while the judge swears you in so that you don't start out by frustrating the judge. Sometimes the ALJ will allow your attorney to ask you questions first.  Sometimes the ALJ starts by asking  their own questions before your attorney will ask you anything.  Every ALJ is different, so be prepared for either situation. Answer any questions the ALJ asks you as best you can.  Answer them with specifics.  If the ALJ asks you what you do during the day answering with "oh, not much" is not helpful and frustrates the judge.  Tell them what you do during the day.  Take them through the time you wake up to the time you go to bed.  If you don't do a lot during the day because of your medical condition, that is okay.  Just make sure the ALJ understands how you spend your time.  If you need help to get dressed, spend a lot of time taking medication or need assistance to eat, this is the time to explain this to the judge. When it is time for your attorney to ask you questions, just remember everything you went over in hearing preparation.  Answer your attorney's questions like you did the ALJ.  Be specific.  The most important thing is to make the ALJ understand what your life is like living with your disability.  BE SPECIFIC!  General answers will not explain what you deal with in your everyday.  If you have to use a seat to take a shower, use a grabber as you have no hand strength, are drowsy and cannot even watch a TV program during the day due to medications, you are the best and only person to explain this to the ALJ. Next will be your witnesses.  The ALJ and your attorney will ask them questions just like they did with you.  Sometimes, if the ALJ does not think a witness will add anything to the testimony, he may not allow them to testify.  That's ok.  They only do this when a witness will not have anything new to add and regardless of the ALJ's decision, don't become frustrated. You may have a vocational expert, a medical expert or both at your hearing.   They are not there to testify against you.  They are only there to clarify information for the ALJ so he can better understand how your disability affects your ability to work.  Your attorney may ask either of the experts questions also, but only if needed.  If they don't, don't worry.  There is a good reason. At this point, the hearing is usually over.  On rare occasions, the ALJ may give you a decision at the end of the hearing, but that is the exception, not the rule.  Most of the time, the ALJ will issue a decision in 60-90 days. After the hearing, it's important to keep the ALJ updated on your condition, so be sure to let your attorney know of any doctor appointments you may have after the hearing.  Those records can still be submitted the majority  and they might help the ALJ make a decision.

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