The Social Security Hearing
Social Security Hearings with a SSD lawyer
A disability hearing is a confidential proceeding that is commonly held in a small conference room or by video-teleconference and sometimes by telephone. What happens in the hearing room? Most judges start Social Security disability hearings by recounting the “case history” of the disability claim and reciting the issues to be decided.
Although judges may recite what you need to prove in order to prove the case, they rarely give a well-defined and simple explanation. Rather, they usually state that the claimant must be “unable to perform substantial gainful activity which exists in significant numbers in the economy, considering your age, education and work experience.” Such a statement may give the claimant the false notion that they have to be bedridden to get disability benefits. This is the precise reason why you should seek the assistance of an experience disability lawyer.
The judge may question the claimant first and then give his or her disability lawyer an opportunity to ask questions. An experienced lawyer can identify issues that need to be clarified or gaps that need to be filled in. Some judges allow the claimant’s lawyer to conduct most of the questioning and prove the basis for disability.
For the first time, you have a chance to explain about your disabling conditions and how they affect you to the person who will decide your case. You will answer questions about your work history, medical conditions and your treatment for them, symptoms, limitations, and activities.
The claimant should answer questions in detail, as if talking to a stranger. Even though the judge may have read the file prior to the hearing, you should assume that the judge knows very little about your case. Answer truthfully, without embellishment. The judge is weighing your statements as compared to other evidence in the record and will find your statements more reliable if they are consistent with the other evidence. Say precisely what you mean, and avoid being overly vague. For example, it means very little when a claimant says that they “can’t lift much.” That can mean anything from 5 to 50 lbs. You should know how many lbs. you can lift and carry. If you don’t, test yourself with common household items and find out. Make sure you know what was asked, and fully answer the question. And then stop talking and wait for the next question.
A medical expert may be asked to appear and testify. This is more likely if there are complex medical issues. Such experts are supposed to be neutral and should have reviewed your medical records before the hearing and listen to your testimony. They testify about what the objective medical evidence shows in terms of diagnoses that result in work-related limitations, whether your condition(s) satisfy the requirements of any of Social Security’s listed impairments, and what limitations they think apply.
A vocational expert is asked to appear and testify in almost all adult cases. These experts have training in understanding jobs and job requirements. They usually have experience in vocational rehabilitation and placing impaired people in jobs. They testify about how your past jobs were performed (based on your testimony) and how they are usually performed. And they respond to hypothetical questions with various limitations that may apply in your case with how those limitations would affect one’s ability to perform the work you used to do or to perform other jobs.
The Role of a Social Security Disability Lawyer
At Roose & Ressler, we think it is a good practice to submit briefs about your case before the hearing, focusing on the important issues and explaining why we think that the evidence in your case shows that you are “disabled.” Judges ask your lawyer for an opening statement that serves the same purpose.
As noted above, your lawyer will be asking you a few or many questions, depending on the circumstances. Your lawyer will also be able to cross-examine the medical expert, if any, and the vocational expert. Many times there is important information that can be brought out during these cross-examinations that may make the difference between a favorable or unfavorable decision.
The Social Security Hearing usually last 30-60 minutes. The outcome may not be known at the conclusion of the social security hearing. A written decision will be issued by the judge after the hearing, usually from a few weeks to a few months after the hearing.
If you have been denied Social Security disability benefits, please fill out the claim evaluation form on this page to seek help from an experienced disability lawyer at Roose & Ressler.