If you are appealing a denied Social Security Disability claim, the wait time for an appearance at a hearing can vary greatly from only a few months to more than two years. Since there is a good chance that your claim will end up at this stage, it is important to be fully prepared for the hearing by understanding some of the expectations, procedures, and best practices for appearing before the Administrative Law Judge. Remember, your Social Security Disability hearing is an opportunity to show the court that you are in need of disability benefits, so it is imperative that you be as honest and elaborate as possible when sharing details on how your disabling medical condition affects your ability to work and function on a day-to-day basis.
Appearing before a judge to plead your Social Security Disability case may sound like a daunting prospect, but it can be far less stressful if the following tips are adhered to.
Some of the worst advice that a Social Security Disability claimant can receive is to appear at a hearing in tattered, disheveled clothes. While some people wrongly believe that this might help induce sympathy from the judge by convincing him or her that you are in dire financial straits and in desperate need of the money that a Social Security Disability check would bring, wearing dirty or torn clothes is extremely disrespectful and likely to make the judge think you are making a mockery of the court.
Although your Social Security Disability hearing will not be as formal as a Federal Court hearing, it is still necessary to dress appropriately. While it is unnecessary to wear a suit and tie, general neatness of dress is a must if you are to be successful in appealing a Social Security Disability claim.
Be Thorough When It Comes To Your Files
When the medical records to support your disability claim are initially sent, follow up to ensure they were received and keep a note of when you sent them.
If you have new medical records to present at hearing that have not already been sent to the Office of Hearings and Appeals, be sure to bring them with you. Give these files to the Court Reporter, who can then introduce them as new evidence for the judge to review. Keep in mind, however, that it is important not to bring in too many new files because the judge will not appreciate the unnecessary delay of having to sift through a slew of new information.
You will be allowed to view the medical records which have already been sent to the judge, so go through them carefully to ensure everything is present and correct. For the sake of your Social Security Disability appeal, do not hesitate to alert the judge if anything is missing or incomplete. Although you should have a Social Security lawyer representing you at this point, never leave the matter entirely in his or her hands.
Bring a Witness
Social Security Disability claims have a better chance of success if a witness is available to testify at hearing. If you can arrange to have a doctor to testify about your diagnosis and the affects of your specific condition, you will greatly increase your chances of winning your Social Security Disability case. If that is impossible, ask a family member or close friend to speak on your behalf about the day-to-day struggles that you face due to your disabling medical condition.
Make Yourself Heard
At a Social Security Disability hearing, the claimant will be forced to speak at length about the specific impairments caused by his or her condition. Always be respectful and look the judge in the eye when answering questions, as this will convey honesty and dispel suspicion that you might be exaggerating the severity of your condition. In addition, it is important to answer all questions loudly and clearly, as the case will be recorded for future reference. Should your Social Security Disability be denied at the hearing stage, you will be able to use the recording if you decide to take your case to the Appeals Court.
Elaborate On Your Answers
As the hearing stage is often the final step of a Social Security Disability claim, the judge is always extremely thorough when questioning a claimant. Expect to be asked dozens of questions, and prepare to clearly describe the pain you feel and the body part that is suffering, and always give demonstrative examples to go with your answers to questions. Should the judge ask whether the person claiming Social Security Disability benefits is able to do their own cleaning and cooking, for instance, explain the level of difficulty you experience while doing each task and the length of time each normally takes.
Always Respect the Court
Finally, always show respect to the judge and to the court. The long wait times for Social Security Disability hearings can be frustrating, but the judge is not the person to take your anger out on. While judges involved in such cases are aware that emotions can run high and may allow a certain amount of leeway, they will never tolerate a major show of disrespect. From your attire to your conduct, always be courteous and polite during your Social Security Disability hearing.