If you have applied for Social Security Disability and have been denied during the initial or secondary reviews, then you’ll need to appeal the determination. This means your case will be reviewed by an administrative law judge and you’ll be required to testify at the disability hearing.
For most people, this is quite the intimidating prospect. After all, a lot hinges on the judge’s decision. Knowing what to expect, including the kinds of questions you’ll need to answer, can calm your nerves a bit and allow you to better prepare for testifying.
1. Personal Information and Background
Every claimant in a disability hearing will be asked to state their full name, Social Security number and mailing address. You will also be asked how old you are, your date of birth, height and weight.
Additionally, the judge will want to know the extent of your formal education and any specialized vocational or other training you’ve completed, as these details can affect your employability even with a disabling condition which may prevent you from working in certain fields or specific kinds of jobs.
2. Employment Background
You’ll be expected to answer a number of questions about your employment history and your current employment situation, including the manner in which your disability affects your ability to work. The judge will want to know:
- If you are currently working and if so, for whom and in what capacity.
- If you have tried to work since the onset of your disabling condition and if so, what the outcome was, including specifics about your work attempt(s), like how long you were there, what you were doing, and why you were not able to continue with the job.
- What job you had at the time you became disabled, including specific job duties, your dates of employment and your reason for leaving.
- What the rest of your employment history was, including all jobs going back fifteen years, listed in order, with dates of employment and job duties.
3. Medical Issues and Limitations
You will be asked about your disability and any other medical issues you have as well as other limitations affecting your ability to care for yourself or perform routine activities, like cleaning your own home, cooking or shopping for yourself.
You’ll be asked about your disabling condition, date of diagnosis, how it has progressed over time, and the affects it has on your ability to work and on other aspects of your daily life.
Gathering and presenting medical evidence about your case is a crucial part of the application process, but you may also be asked more pointed questions, like
- How long you can sit, walk, stand or move around,
- How much you can lift, carry or otherwise move, and how often,
- And if you can safely climb, stoop and bend.
All of these questions relate to your ability to perform normal job duties. You may also be asked if you need to take extra bathroom breaks, and if so, how often and why, and any other questions intended to determine your ability to hold gainful employment.
4. Mental Health and Other Topics
Mental health and psychological and behavioral questions will also be posed, like:
- How often you need to take breaks because of uncontrollable tearfulness, anger or other problems.
- If you have concentration, memory or clarity of thought issues.
- If you have any other issues which affect your ability to get along with coworkers, supervisors, friends or family members.
- If your case file records indicate any history of drug or alcohol problems, questions addressing those concerns will also be covered in your disability hearing.
Knowing these questions and your answers to them beforehand can be critical in proving your case before the judge. Your Social Security lawyer will be able to help you prepare for your hearing and walk you through a list of questions that you are likely to face at the hearing. It is always in your best interest to enlist the help of a lawyer when fighting to get your benefits.
How to Answer The ALJ at your Hearing
No matter what question the ALJ asks at your hearing, you need to make sure that your responses do a few main things. Most important is that you directly answer your ALJ's questions about your case to the best of your abilities.
You may also have questions about aspects of your case that might be regarded negatively by the ALJ.
Don't panic, be honest, and make sure that you've gone over your case for these types of facts.
A disability advocate or attorney can help you sort out these facts and make sure your case is presented with all the details about your case accounted for.