What You Can Expect at Your Social Security Disability Hearing
A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is perhaps the most crucial stage in your claim for disability benefits. It is the only time you will go face to face with the individual who is going to determine your eligibility for benefits. Just as important as what is said at the hearing is what is not said. Here, you have the opportunity to present your “story” to a captive audience. Learn more about how to win a Social Security disability hearing below.
By way of background, the hearing itself is somewhat informal, though basic rules of evidence do apply. It can last anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour on average, depending on who else may be present at the hearing. In addition to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the claimant, the Judge has a hearing assistant handling essential clerical duties as well as recording the proceeding for record-keeping. Other possible parties present include medical experts and vocational experts upon whom the ALJ may rely for clarification of the record. They are not necessarily present at every hearing, but their role is simply to offer testimony on matters beyond the ALJ’s expertise.
One party that not present is an attorney representing the Social Security Administration. This is a significant difference from what most might expect from a courtroom experience. There is no advocate from Social Security who is there to “cross examine” you or otherwise challenge allegations made by you. Of course, the ALJ may ask you to explain inconsistencies during the testimony phase of the hearing.
During that phase, you will be asked questions under oath by the ALJ about three primary topics: (1) background information such as age, education, and work experience; (2) your medical condition and reasons for claimed disability; and (3) how daily activities have been affected by your medical condition. Of course, if you are represented by counsel, the disability attorney also has the right to develop the record by asking questions as well as making arguments in support of the claim.
Unlike the vast majority of the application process, which is primarily performed by exchanging paperwork, the hearing is the one instance where both the claimant (you) and the Social Security Administration are literally placed in the same room face to face. As such, what occurs during that hearing perhaps has a greater impact on the outcome of a claim than any other stage of the process.
Tips for How to Win a Social Security Disability Hearing
If you are facing a disability hearing with the Social Security Administration (SSA), then it is best to schedule a consultation with your NJ Social Security lawyer first. An experienced lawyer will be able to assist you with your case and give you Social Security disability hearing tips. The following information will discuss Social Security disability hearing tips and what to expect during a hearing. Going to your disability hearing can be a stressful event. Often times you have had to wait several weeks or months to have your case heard by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). These following Social Security disability hearing tips will help to get you prepared for your hearing and increase the chances of you winning your case. If you find that you have further questions on the Social Security disability hearing tips, contact your disability attorney to schedule a consultation.
Social Security Disability Hearing Tips
After filing for your appeal, you can expect to receive a notice in the mail that will notify you of your hearing date. This notice will be given to you 20-30 days in advance to notify you of your hearing date. Before the hearing you will want to be sure to submit any new medical evidence in your case. The new medical evidence can include any new doctor reports or exams. These documents will need to be submitted to the Office of Adjudication and Review. Be sure that anything you are submitting is no older than 2-3 months. The ALJ will only want to review current information.
The ALJ will review any new documents before the actual hearing this way they can come up with questions that they would like to ask regarding it. If for some reason you are unable to submit the evidence before the hearing, bring it with you. It is better than not having it at all. In addition to submitting any new medical evidence, you or your attorney will need to submit a brief before the hearing. The brief will outline why you feel that you should win your disability case. It will also include an outline of any new medical evidence as well as show how your condition is eligible for disability benefits. This document will need to be submitted at least ten days before your hearing. Your hearing is considered to be a legal proceeding and it is important that you keep that in mind. You will need to dress appropriately, meaning that your appearance should be neat and modest. You will also need to be on time, polite when speaking, and follow any instruction that the ALJ gives to you. During the hearing, the ALJ will get a chance to ask you questions. Your lawyer should help to prepare you for these questions before you go to the hearing. It would also be in your best interest to review the information about your case before going into the hearing.
Be prepared to answer questions about your information, especially if there are any weaknesses in it. Witnesses will have the chance to speak during your disability hearing. You will be able to bring in witnesses of your own who can attest to your physical condition. Your lawyer can help you to determine who you can call as a witness in your case. Typically, one to two witnesses are called and they are usually a roommate or a co-worker. These witnesses will be able to testify about the struggles you face at home and at work because of your disability. It is important that the witnesses you bring will testify to your struggles, but avoid repetition. The ALJ will not need to hear from two roommates who will have the same exact testimony and will not be pleased if this does happen with the witnesses. Any witness that you have testify for you will need to give an introduction and an explanation as to how they are associated with you. Your lawyer will ask the witness questions that will demonstrate to the ALJ the struggles you face daily. Your attorney will be sure to lead them through a series of questions that will help to demonstrate to the ALJ how limited you are in your daily life.
The ALJ will also have the opportunity to question your witnesses if they wish to. It is very likely that there will be a vocational expert (VE) who will testify at your disability hearing as well. The VE is there to give their opinion as to what kind of job you would be able to do with the medical conditions that you have. Your disability lawyer will be able to question the VE in order to dispute any information that may not be accurate given your condition. After the hearing, you still may be able to communicate with the ALJ if there is additional information to share.
You may ask the ALJ if they would allow you to submit a brief, written explanation to clarify any points or questions that you feel warrants more information. If the ALJ does allow you to submit a written explanation, you will want to first run it by your disability lawyer. You will also want to be sure to keep your explanation brief and on topic. Be sure that you address only the point that you were given permission to address in writing.
Consult with a Social Security Lawyer NJ Residents Trust
Going to a disability hearing at the SSA can be intimidating for someone who has never gone through the process before. Having a skilled professional help you to prepare can often strengthen your disability case. When seeking Social Security disability tips, you will want to be sure to get them from an experienced Social Security lawyer NJ residents trust. Call Hermann Law Group, PLLC at (914) 286-3030 today for assistance with your disability case. Hermann Law Group, PLLC knows the experienced and dedicated attorneys you can trust to help give you the Social Security disability tips to strengthen your case. Call today for your consultation!
Hearing Your appeal brings you to a Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The Hearing is the only time you will come face to face with the person deciding your case, and it is your best chance at having your claim approved
To prepare for the hearing, at Hermann Law Group we collect all medical and other evidence and review what has already been submitted. We will meet with you in advance and prepare you for your hearing. We will review what the Judge will ask you and explain what to expect from start to finish
The Hearing is not open to the public. Aside from the Hearing Assistant (present to record the proceedings), the only people who will appear at this hearing are you, your attorney, and possibly an expert witness. Occasionally your attorney will call a witness on your behalf, but this is usually reserved for cases where the claimant is not able to clearly express himself before the Judge.
Sometimes the Judge will request opinion testimony from an expert witness. This might be a “Vocational Expert,” or “VE,” who would testify regarding what type of work you might be able to do given your medical limitations. Similarly, the Judge might request a “Medical Expert,” or “ME,” to assist him or her in understanding your medical records and determining either your functional capacity or whether your conditions meet a “Listing Criteria” and are therefore automatically classified as disabling. Neither of these “experts” will know you, and they will base their opinions on the facts in the records which are part of your claim file.
Your lawyer is the only one present at the Hearing. The Social Security Administration does not have someone present to oppose you. Instead, the Administrative Law Judge acts as the fact-finder and decision-maker of your case. The questions you will be asked will be asked by your own attorney and the Judge.
Nationwide, approximately 55 percent of the people who apply for hearings are approved. At Hermann Law Group we win approximately 85% of our hearings.
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Procedures at Your Hearing
A New York Social Security disability lawyer discusses the procedures normally followed at a Social Security disability hearing in the paragraphs below.
Our Disability Attorney in New York Explains What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing
The Social Security disability hearing is your best chance to state your disability case. It is very likely that you have questions about what will take place at your disability hearing. The following video will show you what to expect.
Contact a Disability Attorney in New York
For more help understanding your hearing, contact a disability attorney in New York from Hermann Law Group, PLLC at (914) 286-3030.
Our Disability Attorney in NJ Describe Judges at Your Social Security Disability Hearing
If you’re working with a disability attorney in NJ, your application for Social Security disability (SSD) will be reviewed by an administrative law judge (ALJ) who represents the Social Security Administration (SSA). The ALJ works as a neutral researcher whose job is to inquire about your disability and grant benefits if you’re disabled according to the Social Security Act.
Impartial Administrative Law Judges
Generally, the ALJ does act as a neutral researcher. Some 60 percent of applicants who attend an SSD hearing will receive disability benefits. However, statistics show that certain ALJs are more lenient and that others have lower approval rates.
Presenting Your Case
To demonstrate your condition, your disability attorney in NJ will gather and present evidence and testimony at the hearing. Medical records, doctors’ opinions, and witness testimony are valuable for proving that you have a qualifying disability. Whatever issues emerge, your disability lawyers in NJ must address items without antagonizing the ALJ. Many judges will explain the particular problem, which will give your attorney a chance to better present your case.
Working with an SSD Attorney
Although deadlines and evidence requirements are not as strict as they are in court cases, your disability attorney in NJ needs to comply with the SSA and ALJ. If necessary, your attorney can request an extension or have the judge order a subpoena to secure additional records.
Contact a Disability Attorney in NJ
To learn more about Social Security disability, contact a disability attorney in NJ from Hermann Law Group, PLLC at 914-286-3030.
Our Hackensack NJ Disability Attorney Discusses Preparing Your Testimony
If you have questions about Social Security disability, our Hackensack disability attorney can help you prepare to testify at your disability hearing. You will need to show that you cannot work at any of the jobs that you previously held during the past 15 years and that you cannot work at any other jobs that are commonly available in the marketplace.
Employment During the Past 15 Years
First, your attorney will have you explain the type of work that you did in the easiest job that you have held in the past 15 years. You will then tell the court why you can no longer work at that job. Your lawyer will help you eliminate reasons that do not apply to Social Security in Hackensack NJ, such as the company relocating or laying off employees.
Commonly Available Jobs
Second, the court considers how much work is available in the marketplace. For example, an applicant who is 50 with a history of heavy-duty, blue-collar work and with no further education than a GED might not be able to perform even light-duty jobs that require extensive standing or lifting between 10 and 20 pounds. The Social Security judge might rule that the applicant qualifies for disability even if he or she can perform a desk job.
Hypothetical Situations and Disability Hearings
Your attorney will talk with you beforehand to prepare you to testify and to advise you regarding statements to avoid. He or she will tell you that the judge who will hear your case is an administrative law judge. The ALJ makes decisions on hypothetical situations. You should not attempt to present common sense arguments to the court since the situation is hypothetical.
In other words, if you are hypothetically offered a job, can you work? Instead, let your lawyer speak for you. Some cases, especially for a person under the age of 50, are quite complex. Your attorney will list valid reasons as to why you cannot work at a desk job and direct you not to bring up other reasons that might not apply in your case. Some of those reasons that the Social Security Administration will likely reject include the following:
- “I can’t find any desk jobs in this area.”
- “I’ve never worked at a job like that before.”
- “I would have to drive too far to go to work.”
What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing?
The purpose of a disability hearing is to determine if you are too disabled to work. Although all hearings are a little different, there are some things you can be pretty sure you can expect.
The ALJ Will Question You
The ALJ who is presiding over the hearing will ask you questions that focus on medical history and ability to function. The ALJ may verify information on your SSD application and ask you how your disability impacts your life. The judge isn’t trying to prove that you don’t have a disability. They’re instead trying to determine the extent of severity of any diagnosed medical conditions. You should be completely honest with the ALJ about your conditions and how they affect you.
An Attorney Can Speak on Your Behalf
You are allowed to have an attorney at the hearing with you. They can ask you questions, summarize your case, and speak with others who are present regarding your case. It’s best to work with an attorney who can guide you through the Social Security disability hearing process.
You Have a Right to Appeal
If your claim is denied at the hearing level, you can request reconsideration. This process will send your case back to the SSA to be evaluated by a different person. If you receive a second denial, then you can appeal that as well. It’s important to exercise your right to appeal, even if you feel like you want to give up.
How to Win a Social Security Disability Hearing
Social Security disability hearings are legal proceedings. They take place in front of an ALJ who will listen to your testimony and review your documents. The ALJ will then make a decision about your disability based on what you present in the hearing. The following tips can help you win your SSD hearing:
1. Hire an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney
Although any attorney can represent you at a hearing, you will want an attorney with extensive experience representing SSD applicants. Social Security is a specialized type of administrative law. The attorney you select should understand the administrative law process and be prepared to present a strong case.
Statistics indicate that SSD applicants who use an attorney are more likely to be approved for benefits. The earlier you obtain an attorney, the better. A skilled lawyer can help you prepare for the hearing and present your case in front of the ALJ.
2. Make Sure You Attend the Hearing
You will have the best chance to win your SSD case if you show up at the hearing on time. You will know about your hearing date well in advance. You should make plans for transportation and other needs so you have access to the hearing. If you are not able to attend for some reason, you should postpone your hearing. If you don’t notify the SSD and you don’t show up, your claim may be denied.
3. Appearances Matter
Although you don’t have to wear a full suit to the Social Security disability hearing, you should present yourself appropriately. Torn jeans and a dirty shirt may indicate a lack of respect to the ALJ. You should wear business casual clothing, meaning nice pants or a skirt and a nice top that is clean.
The way you present yourself matters as well. The ALJ understands that you are disabled and that it may be difficult for you to walk or otherwise present yourself. However, when speaking to the ALJ and others, use appropriate language and remain civil. You may be upset about questions that are asked, but remain calm. If you have something negative to say, wait until after the hearing and speak to your attorney privately.
4. Familiarize Yourself With Your Case and Medical Records
You have likely submitted a lot of information to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in preparation for the hearing. The ALJ will ask you questions based on that documentation. It’s best if you are familiar with the information you submitted, as well as your own medical history. It can be easy to forget about certain tests and medical care you have received. You should review this information with your attorney before the hearing.
5. Don’t Minimize Your Disability
The ALJ will ask you many questions about the disability that you claim to have. It may be in your nature to pretend things are fine and to say you can take perform simple daily tasks. However, when the ALJ questions you, you should be completely honest about your medical conditions. If you have trouble bathing or walking, you should emphasize that. Do not minimize any of your symptoms or conditions.
The ALJ and others in the hearing room are not going to think poorly about you based on your inability to complete tasks. Their job is to help you. Focus on your disability and what the ALJ needs to know about your conditions.
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Social Security Hearings and Daily Activities
A disability attorney in New York may help claimants prepare for their disability hearing. One area where they can expect to be asked questions is regarding daily activities.
Judges want to know about a person’s daily activities because it gives them another barometer for gauging a person’s limitations. Additionally, judges use this information to compare it with what the claimant reports about his or her impairments related to work. Judges may ask about activities that involve standing and walking if a claimant says he or she has trouble with this. Additionally, they may also ask about social activities. Be prepared to describe how far you can travel at a time and whether you can drive. Additionally, be prepared to talk about any need to change positions.
A disability attorney in New York may help a claimant prepare for answering questions by role playing. An attorney can explain that a judge’s questions provide an opportunity for the claimant to provide details about his or her impairments. Answers should be honest. Even if you are able to complete many different kinds of daily activities, such as cleaning, doing laundry or cooking, be prepared to discuss side effects and limitations related to these activities. For example, if you can only complete an activity for a few minutes at a time, mention this fact. Also, mention whether you require assistance to do particular activities, such as help with the laundry or running errands. If someone has to help you carry your groceries when you leave the store, this may be much different than simply stating that you can go grocery shopping. Also, if you have to take a break for a few minutes or hours each day, mention this fact. Provide adequate details about your impairments so that the judge can get an accurate idea of your daily life. Talk about how you have made adaptations since your impairment to do different activities. Talk about how long you can perform certain activities and then how much rest you need to take after the activity. Compare these statements with estimates of how long you took to perform the same activities before you became disabled and. Discuss what assistance you need to perform different activities.
Legal Assistance from a Disability Attorney in New York
If you would like more information about how to prepare for questions regarding your daily activities, contact a disability attorney in New York from Hermann Law Group, PLLC by calling (914) 286-3030.
A Social Security Hackensack NJ Law Firm on the Key to a Disability Hearing: Your Testimony
If your Social Security disability claim has reached the hearing stage, you’ve already been through a lot; the limitations imposed by your impairments, of course, but the disability process itself is long and stressful. You likely have been informed by your New York Social Security disability lawyer that statistically, this is your best opportunity to be approved for benefits, and it’s important to make the most of it.
Unlike your initial application and again on reconsideration, at the hearing you are permitted to testify. Although the hearing is less formal than a court trial, it is an evidentiary hearing in front of a judge, and your testimony is given under oath and recorded. You are entitled to representation by a New York Social Security disability lawyer at the hearing.
The administrative law judge in your case will have reviewed your file prior to the case, but he or she may need clarification on certain issues. Among the issues that may be examined based on the specifics of your case are:
- Your work history
- Your educational background
- Your complete medical history
- Your impairments
- Your symptoms
- Your work limitations
- Your daily life limitations
In most cases, your narrative regarding your limitations at work and in your daily life will be of paramount interest to the judge.
How you present yourself is often as or more important than what you actually say. You should dress and be groomed appropriately for the occasion and look at the judge as you speak. The most important point to remember is to always be truthful. While most people realize this means they should not exaggerate or invent symptoms, it is also important that you not minimize or underplay your condition. You should not be concerned with seeming to be a complainer; tell your story.
Your story is personal to you; avoid speaking in clinical, medical terms, although you no doubt are somewhat of an expert on your condition. The judge has the medical files, but doesn’t know what only you can explain; how you feel, how severe is the pain, and what can you no longer do that once you could? This is your story; tell it.
Contact a New York Social Security Disability Lawyer for Legal Advice
Most applicants are initially denied disability. It is important to persevere and appeal. To explore your options at any stage of the proceeding, call Hermann Law Group, PLLC, a Social Security Hackensack NJ law firm, at (914) 286-3030.
Testifying about Your Physical Limitations
When the judge asks you questions about your physical limitations, it is important that you provide thorough answers that allow the judge to have information about your normal work day. Provide descriptions that can help the judge visualize your symptoms and impairments so that he or she will be more likely to award you a favorable outcome. if you have further questions please contact a New York social security disability lawyer.
Testifying About Emotional Problems at Your Disability Hearing
If you are suffering from physical pain, it can easily lead to having emotional issues as well. When you are testifying for Social Security disability benefits, it is imperative that you tell the judge about the emotional issues you are suffering from due to pain as these can frequently be a greater hindrance to working.
Social Security Disability Hearing
Social Security Disability Hearing
Understanding your Social Security Disability Hearing may be difficult with the technical jargon. Consult the professionals at Hermann Law Group today.
Hearing Delays on Social Security Disability Claims
The waiting time for Social Security Disability hearings has increased dramatically. Congress did not approve a budget that would allow Social Security to handle the increase in applications and the agency can only hire one person for every three that leave at the hearing level. More applications are being filed each month that can be processed.
We want our clients to know that we are doing everything possible to get your hearing scheduled. Unfortunately, the Administrative Law Judges are not able to keep up with the amount of cases they have due to the staff reductions. In the Albany hearing office two of the six judges are retiring within the next few months! There are no plans to replace them! Obviously that will worsen the already unacceptable delays. One solution, using judges from the White Plains hearing office, will simply increase the delay in that office.
On a case by case basis, we are doing more to make sure that cases are fully developed before the first decision is made, avoiding the hearing delay if a favorable decision is made at that level. For those cases at the hearing level we are identifying and developing those cases that may be favorably decided without a hearing. If one of the judges agrees, many months can be shaved of the processing time.
We are working with our national organization to lobby Congress about this problem. The lack of concern the leaders in Congress have shown for people with disabilities has been a great disappointment.
We are sending you this letter so that you are aware of the problems that we face together. If you can, please write your United States Senators and Representatives and explain the hardship the delay is causing you. It is important that they understand the system is about people not just another government bureaucracy. Send me a copy to use in our efforts to change the system.
To find your elected representatives go to http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/
We will continue to make every effort to have your claim decided favorably for you.
If Your Claim is Denied at the Hearing: Further Appeals
If you are denied at the hearing stage, we can appeal your case to the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration within 60 days of the date the decision is received. At Hermann Law Group, our goal is to prevail at the earlier stages of your claim, because the chances for success at the Appeals Council level are quite low.
The Appeals Council can overturn the Judge’s decision and award benefits, or restore the matter for another hearing. However, they uphold the Judge’s decision about 75% of the time. Compare that to the success level at the Hearing stage and you can see that you do not want your case to ever get this far!
If the Judge’s decision is upheld, the next level of appeal is to the Federal District Court. The Federal District Court cannot accept any new evidence; therefore, we will appeal cases to the Federal District Court only if we feel there is merit to the appeal and we can identify a significant error of law in the decision. Again, the decision must be appealed within 60 days, and the Federal Court can either uphold the prior decision, completely overturn it, or direct that a new hearing be held.
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Social Security Hearings Continue if the Government Shuts Down
The Social Security Administration has indicated that if there is a government “shutdown” there are certain critical functions that they will continue to perform. The most important ones relating to the disability process are that they will continue to accept and evaluate new applications and will continue to hear cases already scheduled and decide cases that already have had hearings.
However, no new hearings will be scheduled and decisions will not be written (although the claim will be decided), even if the hearing was held before or during the shut-down.
Regular payments will continue to those already receiving benefits, and the state agencies will continue to process initial claims and reconsiderations.
Video Conferencing Does Not Do Much to Improve Social Security Disability Hearings
I read with interest a report that conducting video hearings is a new measure to help reduce the backlog of claims pending a Social Security disability hearing.
I have been participating in video hearings for a number of years, and have found that the effort to farm out hearing to other offices and do them by video has had mixed success vis a vis the hearings backlog. The problem is that very often, cases get shipped from one hearing office to another where each time they are put in the end of the queue for a hearing. This means that a case that sat in office #1 for 8 months and was then shifted to office #2 to help ease backlogs in office #1 will be find itself behind newer cases that were referred to case #2 for a ‘live’ hearing.
Furthermore, nothing is necessarily gained using a video hearing for claimants who have difficulty traveling, since these hearing can still only be conducted at a Social Security office set up to conduct these hearings.
Finally, the technology for video hearings has still not evolved to a point where the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) can, in fact, effectively get the sense of a claimant by using the pan and tilt features of the video appliance. In my experience, the ALJ’s camera is set and there are never any adjustments made to close in on the claimant during the hearing.
In my humble opinion, the benefits of video hearings continue to be outweighed by the deficits. I know of many ALJs who prefer a live hearing because they feel that something is very much missing from the video hearing.
I tend to agree with them.
Video Hearings Don’t Help the Claimant
The Social Security Administration is scheduling video hearings more and more frequently. We, and many of the Judges with whom we have discussed this, do not really like them. We advise almost all of our clients to decline the video hearing and request an in-person hearing—something to which every claimant has an absolute right under the current Regulations.
Why are we against them? You can judge a lot more about someone in person than you can on a two-dimensional TV screen, no matter how big it is. Think about how different it is watching a ball game at home versus being at the stadium. At the game you can watch the players on the sidelines, not just see the play on the field.
The same is true for a Social Security Disability hearing. In some cases there is a real “feel” about a disabled person that can never be transmitted through a camera. This is especially true in cases where the claimant has psychological impairments.
The slight delay in the system also makes it harder for either side to follow the discussion. Also, the less than state of the art system limits what the Judge can observe about a claimant. This can extend to “off the record” observations such as a claimant’s difficulty getting into the hearing room or out of the seat after his or her hearing concludes.
Finally, there is one subtle but very important aspect that hurts claimants who opt for a video hearing. I believe it is easier for a Judge to decline a case for someone he or she has never really “met.” When I prepare clients for their hearing I always tell them that this is the only time in a Social Security claim they will come face to face with the decision maker. I believe that if the initial decisions included some in-person connection with the claims analysts, far more cases would be allowed. Putting the Hearings Judge on the other side of a camera puts him one step closer to that anonymous claims analyst.
Video hearings may help the agency handle more cases, but the cost is borne by those who can least afford it: the claimants.