Disability hearings can be extremely intimidating, especially if you’ve never been to court before.
And unlike some proceedings, there’s not much your attorney can do for you once the questioning starts (though we are allowed to ask more helpful questions after the judge).
Sometimes clients will ask me what they’re supposed to say, and I can’t tell you that either. I can, however, offer a few pointers for how to prepare.
First, understand that there’s really two things we want to know about at your hearing: Your past work and the physical and mental limitations preventing you from working now.
It’s extremely important to describe your past jobs as accurately as possible, in particular their physical requirements.
And while some claimants only want to talk about diagnoses, that really isn’t very helpful at a hearing. Saying you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure does little to help your case. On the other hand,, testifying that your high blood pressure makes you lightheaded whenever you stand or constantly fatigued, is much more effective at illustrating why it’s keeping you from working.
Perhaps the most important part of testifying at a hearing is to be honest. You’re under oath. It’s required. But even beyond that, you’d be amazed what sort of information ends up in your medical records.
Many judges will ask about things, such as work attempts or drug or alcohol abuse more to test your honesty than to outright deny your case.
Of course, if you really don’t remember something or don’t know the answer to a question, those are perfectly acceptable answers as well.
Finally, remember to be as direct as possible. Administrative law judges are usually on a tight schedule, with five (or more) cases in a single day. If they ask a simple question like, “How far can you walk?” they want a straight answer. That’s not the time to launch into a five minute speech about your doctor.
These aren’t surefire tips to win your case, however, keeping these things in mind will certainly improve your chances.