How Should I Answer the ALJ's Questions at My Hearing?

Submitted by Shane on

Our most recent blog posts have focused on the disability appeal hearing. So far we have covered the following questions: “How should I act at my disability appeal hearing?” and “Should I bring my doctor to my disability appeal hearing?” You can find those posts, here. Today we will answer the following question:

How do I answer the ALJ’s questions at my Social Security Disability appeal hearing?

The Social Security Disability application process is made up of several stages. First is the initial application submission. If you are denied at this level, you will then enter the appeals process. Depending on where you live you may have to file for reconsideration. Because most reconsiderations are denied—the majority of disability applicants will have to attend an appeal hearing.

During the appeal hearing, claimants will appear before an Administrative Law Judge—or ALJ—to answer questions about their claim. Claimants will be given the opportunity to submit additional evidence and correct their original mistakes. The ALJ will inquire about your condition, medical history, and restrictions and will use your responses and updated records to determine whether or not you qualify for disability benefits.

Your responses to the ALJ’s questions should provide an accurate depiction of your day-to-day life with a disability. Because you may feel overwhelmed or intimidated during your appeal hearing, we have compiled a list of tips to help you answer the ALJ’s questions effectively:

  • Prepare for your hearing. In a separate blog post we talk about the questions commonly asked at a disability appeal hearing. Review these questions and think about your responses ahead of time. Practice answering questions with a friend, family member, or legal representative. This will make you more comfortable and will allow you to speak fluidly and naturally at your hearing.
  • Be honest. Remember that although the hearing may be informal, you are still under oath and must give only truthful responses. You should not lie or exaggerate your responses in order to have your case taken seriously. An ALJ will have extensive experience at appeal hearings and will be able to recognize any inconsistencies in your claim. Being truthful will earn you more respect and credibility.
  • Remain calm. Although an appeal hearing can be an overwhelming experience, do your best to remain composed. If you are thrown off by a question, take your time and really think about how to answer it. If you do not understand something, ask for an explanation. Be prepared for the judge to ask you personal, potentially embarrassing, questions. No matter what happens, stay calm.

If you feel your judge is treating you in a hostile or offensive manner remember to stay on your best behavior. Your hearing will likely be recorded. If necessary, the audio recording of your case can be examined later but it is helpful if the record of your behavior at the hearing is clean. If the judge does something inappropriate that isn't recorded be sure to state for the record what occurred. After your hearing has ended you can file an appeal with the Appeals Council and cite your ALJ's behavior. Having said that—your judge will be an experienced professional and will likely act as such.

If you have additional questions about any of the information in this post, please leave them in the comment section below and we may answer them in an upcoming blog post. 

Additional Resources 

Blog comments

Jane doe (not verified)

My neighbor

My neighbor for the midwest is on disabilty hes not using the money what its suppose to used for med etc.hes selling drugs and buying drugs he should be taken off of it .its fraud he can sure i know his soc number but I won't post it on the internet because that would be bad.tryed to kill man on oxygen probably in jail? Look into it please dont need people like this thats doing drugs and selling drugs a fraud.look into this take this off disabilty he can go work like other people do.look into this please.

Sun, 08/20/2017 - 23:49 Permalink

In reply to by Jane doe (not verified)

Hi Jane,

Hi Jane,
We are not the SSA and we are not affiliated with them or the federal government. You may want to contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271 if you suspect fraud. Also you may want to contact your local authorities if he is attempting to kill people.

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 10:20 Permalink
Michael Johnson (not verified)

I have had my hearing with

I have had my hearing with the ALJ on 12/6/17 and I still haven't heard anything. How long should I wait before I call Social Security. My case is in Richmond, Va

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 14:42 Permalink

In reply to by Michael Johnson (not verified)

Hi Michael,

Hi Michael,

Every case is different. I would call the SSA to see if they have any insight.

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 14:51 Permalink

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