There are certainly many functions that your attorney will perform outside of the actual hearing. Namely, your attorney will be examining your medical records as well as other exhibits in your Social Security file, crafting legal arguments, and working with paralegals to make sure that your file is complete before your hearing. There may also be issues that surface after your hearing that your attorney may need to resolve. However, this posting is going to discuss how your attorney can and will advocate on your behalf at your disability hearing.
Your disability hearing is your chance to explain to a judge in your own words whey you can no longer work. The majority of the hearing will usually consist of the judge and your attorney asking you questions about your symptoms and how they interfere with your life and your ability to work. Some judges invite the attorney to give an opening statement. In this case, your attorney can help set the tone for the hearing by framing your disabilities to the judge, as well as explaining to the judge why she is legally justified in issuing a favorable decision. The opening statement will not look quite like the opening statements given by your favorite attorneys in television and literature. Disability hearings are relatively short in duration and many judges schedule hearings very close together. Therefore, judges lose patience with attorneys that go into a lengthy monologue. Moreover, the most important part of the hearing is the testimony that comes from you, the disability claimant. In their opening statement, your attorney will give a brief, one to two-minute statement that may discuss your disabilities, past work and educational background, age, and other relevant considerations to the judge in his or her decision.
The most important function of the attorney is knowing what questions to ask. You will probably see your attorney furiously taking notes while the judge questions you. That is because once the judge has finished asking his questions, your attorney will have the chance to ask a few questions of their own. Your attorney will ask follow-up questions that are designed to elicit favorable testimony from you. Your attorney will also question the vocational expert or medical expert (if one is called by the judge in your case). There are several very good blog posts that address the function of the vocational expert. The judge will ask a few questions to the vocational expert about the workability and employability of a hypothetical person with a certain set of limitations. Based on the vocational expert’s responses to these questions, your attorney will ask questions about the effect of additional physical or mental limitations that your medical records support.
The most important thing for the claimant to do is to pay attention. You will need to listen carefully to the questions, stay calm, and most importantly, answer honestly.