If your claim for Social Security disability benefits has been denied, one of the steps in the appeals process is requesting a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge.
Administrative law judges settle disputes with federal regulatory and benefits-granting agencies, including the Social Security Administration.
When your initial SSDI claim is denied and your request for reconsideration is denied, the next step is requesting a hearing with one of these judges.
What Happens During an ALJ Hearing?
During the hearing, the judge will ask certain questions of the SSDI applicant.
Before your scheduled hearing, you should prepare responses for the questions below. The questions can be extensive and require very detailed answers, so it’s OK to make notes for you to help you remember what you want to say.
- What jobs have you performed in the past 15 years? Include the names of your employers in that time period, your job titles, and the dates of your employment.
- What medications do you currently take? Discuss the exact names of the medications, the dosage, how long you’ve been on them, what the medications do, what side effects they have, and who prescribed them for you.
- Why is the main reason why you are unable to work? This answer should be not just about naming the disabling condition you suffer from, but about how that condition affects you and your day to day abilities.
- What is a typical day like for you?
- How often do you leave the house?
- How long are you able to sit/stand/walk?
- Do you have a driver’s license? If so, how much driving do you do and where do you drive to?
- Have you performed any sustained activity outside the home since your disability began? This includes paid work and volunteer work.
- Do you experience pain? If so, where do you feel pain and how would you rate it on a scale of 1 to 10?
In addition to coming up with responses, it’s a good idea to practice answering the questions out loud. While it may feel silly, you’ll be glad you did once the hearing day arrives. Your Social Security lawyer can also help you prepare and advise you on the best answers for your situation.
What Not To Say
Here are some guidelines on how not to answer questions from an Administrative Law Judge:
- Avoid vague answers. Be as specific as possible in your responses.
- Try not to respond with “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember.” Take a moment to think and refer to your notes if you need to.
- Don’t give responses that imply your circumstances, not your disability, prevents you from working. Examples include, “No one will hire me with my medical history” or “I can’t drive so I can’t get to work.”
If you’ve been denied Social Security disability and need assistance appealing the decision, contact M. Stanley Whitehead, a disability denial lawyer in Houston, Texas.