Prior to your disability hearing, your attorney will likely make clear to you that it is a very informal type of proceeding. There will not be an adversarial attorney cross-examining you and trying to prove that you are not disabled. You will not have to “take the stand” and sit in a witness box. Your attorney is not likely to object to anything being said in court. In other words, it is hardly an episode of Law and Order.
That being said, there are a few formalities as your attorney and the judge will make clear. You will need to take an oath to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. It is also important to keep in mind as you interact with the judge that he or she is a U.S. Administrative Law Judge (a type of federal judge) and to show the appropriate respect. This does not necessarily mean that you will need to preface all of your answers with “Your Honor”, but it is important not to act too informal towards the judge. Although it may feel like you and the judge are having a conversation, it is important not to speak unless being asked a question by the judge. If the judge or the vocational expert says something that you feel is inaccurate, it is probably best that you whisper this concern to your attorney rather than interrupt the judge or the expert witness. Always wait until the judge is finished speaking to begin speaking. A claimant that talks over the judge or cuts off the judge is likely going to annoy many judges. Finally, the judges choose their questions very intentionally and expect an answer that is on topic and on point. Speaking freely about matters unrelated to the specific question could also be construed as a lack of respect.
You can best prepare for your day in court by working with a qualified attorney that specializes in Social Security disability claims. Your attorney can walk you through the types of questions that are likely to be asked by the judge at your hearing.