When you apply for Social Security Disability benefits and are denied, you can appeal the decision by filing a Request for Reconsideration. If a second denial is received, you will then take your place in the queue of the many Social Security applicants who are waiting for their disability hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Although the wait for a hearing can be long – more than a year – the plus side of this is that you’ll get plenty of time to prepare for your hearing. Your Social Security hearing will take place at a Social Security Administration (SSA) office that’s called the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR.) These offices are located in most major cities.
One of the best ways you can prepare for a disability hearing is to anticipate the judge’s questions and practice your answers. Below are five questions that are commonly asked by administrative law judges, and that you should expect to answer at your disability hearing.
What was your last job?
Although the judge has the reports you completed detailing your employment history, and possibly even records from your last employer, they will still want to hear you describe what your job duties at your last position entailed. Expect to be asked things such as how much time you spent sitting vs. standing, how much weight you lifted on a regular basis, whether or not you had any supervisory responsibilities, and how long your workdays were. The SSA uses this information to determine whether or not you would be able to do your previous job.
What medications are you taking?
Make sure you know the name, dosage, and frequency of any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) that you take on a regular basis. It’s OK to write them down and bring this with you if there are too many to remember. The judge will also ask about any side effects that you might experience, such as drowsiness or nausea.
How long can you sit/stand at one time?
The major determination that the judge is required to make in your case is whether or not you can do any job on regular basis. They’ll want to know how long you’re able to sit and stand on the average day. If this varies depending on your pain level or another factor, you can explain this to the judge.
What keeps you from being able to work?
The judge doesn’t want you to list the names of your medical conditions in response to this question – he or she already has that information. They want you to explain, in your own words, why you can’t work. It’s best to elaborate on exactly how your condition(s) affect your ability to do work-related tasks, such as if you suffer from memory or concentration problems, need to change positions often due to pain, or would need to miss numerous days of work per month to make it to your required medical appointments.
What are your day-to-day activities?
The judge will want to know what you’re able to do on a daily basis. It’s important to be honest, but be cautious not to explain what you can do only on your best days. Try to think about what you can do on a regular basis, on a day that you’re feeling neither your greatest nor your worst. You can tell the judge things like where you spend your time, whether or not you cook your own meals, if you take care of children or pets, and what you do for fun.
If you, or somebody that you love, is faced with the task of appealing a denied Social Security Disability claim, it is likely in your best interest to contact an attorney or advocate who practices disability law to help you prepare for these and other questions that you will face during your moment in front of the judge.