If you have filed for disability and are waiting for your hearing date to be set, it is a good idea to become familiar with the hearing process so you know what to expect and are not caught off guard by the questions you will be asked and the information you will be required to provide, since this is the most crucial stage in the disability determination process. At this stage, the majority of claims which have been denied at previous levels of the disability application process will be approved. However, this does not mean you are guaranteed an approval. Many of the things you can say or do in your hearing will affect its outcome.
During your hearing, there may be several people present. There will be your personal lawyer or representative and any witnesses you have brought. There may also be a medical expert (ME) and a vocational expert (VE) who will offer their expertise on the physical and mental limitations of your condition.
After the opening statements of your hearing, you will most likely be required to answer questions directly from the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The judge will ask you a series of questions about your previous work, why you are unable to do your previous work, and the specific physical functions you are able to perform now as well as your treatments and medications.
The significance of these questions is what they reveal about your disability status. By asking what movements such as standing, walking, and lifting you performed during your previous work, the ALJ is able to assess what level of work you used to be able to do, whether light, medium, or heavy physical work; or if you are being assessed for a mental disability, what level of mental skill or concentration was required.
Next you will be asked about your disability and how it affects your ability to perform these functions, such as sitting and standing. The ALJ may ask you how long you are able to sit or stand. You should provide specific information about how your disability has affected these functions, because you are trying to prove that because of your disability you are no longer able to perform work requiring extensive periods of sitting and/or standing.
The best practice is to stick as closely as possible to your RFC (residual functional capacity) forms filled out by your doctors. If you exaggerate your condition, it will not help your case, because the ALJ is familiar with the specific disabling effects of your condition.
All of the questions you are asked with relation to your ability to carry out basic movements and work activities are designed to assess whether or not you are capable of performing your previous work or any other work considering your remaining range of physical and mental function. If the ALJ decides you are capable of and have a reasonable chance of getting work in another field for which you are physically or mentally qualified, you will not be awarded disability benefits.