Something that claimants often ask me before a hearing is what they need to say to be approved by an administrative law judge.
First, your attorney can’t tell you exactly what to say at the hearing. Second, even if I could, there’s no such thing as “magic words” that are guaranteed to win your case. If there were, a lot more people would be approved.
Every disability case is radically different. Some hearings can be won by a lawyer just making an argument. Others focus more on mental health issues even if you’ve applied for physical impairments. Sometimes, we need to discuss specific periods of time that could be years in the past. And in some instances, it’s actually much more important to discuss your past work than the conditions that are keeping you from working.
So, what are judges looking for at these hearings? The first thing is consistency with your testimony and your medical records. If your doctor says your back seems to only have mild issues, but you testify that you’re in so much pain you can barely walk, the judge is going to want an explanation of how that happened. Does the doctor not listen? Has your back recently gotten much worse? Is there another condition causing that amount of pain?
And judges want to hear in your own words what is keeping you from working. You might have had trouble seeking regular medical treatment, or while a doctor might note knee pain, he might not explain the limitations associated with that.
Ideally, a disability hearing is an opportunity to fill in the gaps so that a judge can render a fully informed decision. And while there are no “magic words” to win at the hearing level, a disability attorney can help prepare you for what to expect so that you’re ready to answer the questions that are likely to be asked by a judge.