4 Common Questions To Prepare for at your ALJ Hearing

Submitted by Shane on

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.

Common Questions To Prepare for at your ALJ Hearing

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.

Disability Judge Trick Questions

It doesn’t matter what questions the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will ask you at your hearing, you need to be sure that you directly answer the ALJ's questions about your case. First and foremost you mustn’t panic but just be honest and make sure you know everything you need to know about your disability. 

This includes your symptoms and why you are not able to work in the next 12 months. The ALJ wants to be sure that your disability will prevent you from working. If it is found that your disability isn’t so severe and you could work in your normal job with some minor adjustments your application may be denied. 

The judge will only ask you to answer questions that assess your medical condition. If you don’t answer these questions in a way that supports your disability then that may impact your eligibility for disability benefits. To avoid this happening, answer accurately without over-exaggerating your symptoms. If you can do certain activities, explain how your condition limits you.

Preparing for the disability hearing is vital to get your disability benefits application approved. You need to consider what questions a judge may ask at a disability hearing and how you can prepare your responses so that you are honest, exact and convincing. 

A disability judge won’t ask you trick questions but may ask specific questions that assess your level of impairment, and your ability to work. A lawyer may be able to help you with your disability benefits application. 

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.

Additional Resources

Blog comments

Suzanne Amies (not verified)

I was married 14 years. Never

I was married 14 years. Never remarried my ex has been on disability /social security since 2003. He owes 30,000 in back spouse and child support. Currently i am receiving 150. 00 a month from his benefits. I am 56 and disabled. But not drawing benefits. I feel I should be drawing more from him.

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 12:03 Permalink

In reply to by Suzanne Amies (not verified)

Hi Suzanne,

Hi Suzanne,
You may want to contact the SSA regarding this, they may be able to help with your case.

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 09:23 Permalink
Wendy K (not verified)

I was approved for medical

I was approved for medical SSI, which is $750/month. I didn’t get SSDI because of date disabled (which is wrong. My H.initial injury was in 1998 and they are sISS etgoot,esaying my DOD is 7/7/17). I’ seuecab ve been working all of those years; forcing myself. I am 55 yrs. old and my son lives with me. He receives SSI also but was a minor when he was awarded. We cannot even pay our rent. Is there additional programns that could help us?

Mon, 03/26/2018 - 16:42 Permalink

In reply to by Wendy K (not verified)

Hi Wendy,

Hi Wendy,

I am sorry to hear that. A good first start could be to apply for your State's public assistance program.

Tue, 03/27/2018 - 16:28 Permalink
David (not verified)

Hello, I'm very nervous

Hello, I'm very nervous about my hearing coming up at the end of this month. I fear I will not be able to properly explain my current mental and physical condition. I carry a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, psychosis, in the past I have been diagnosed with a mental condition known as borderline personality disorder.

I am also a diabetic and have constant nerve pain in my hands and feet. I feel nauseous and terrified of my upcoming hearing I just fear I will shut down and not be able to explain to the judge and put into words my mental and physical condition. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 23:20 Permalink

In reply to by David (not verified)

Hi David,

Hi David,

I would have as much medical documentation and proof to support your claim. Since you are going to a hearing, working with a lawyer can help you considerably. If you are already working with one, ask them to do a mock interview so you can be prepared for the questions that might be asked and get more comfortable answering them.

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 10:48 Permalink

Add new comment

Find Out If I Qualify for Benefits!