Friday, October 29, 2010

Your Social Security Disability Hearing

For many people, a Social Security disability hearing is the most stressful part of the SSDI or SSI process. I am here to tell you that this should not be the case, since if you have taken all the steps to make sure your case is ready for hearing this is possibly your best chance to win. If you are extremely nervous about your disability hearing and you have not hired a lawyer you should consider doing so, not just because they have experience with hearings, but also it will give you the confidence that you have someone on your side listening to what you have to say and following up with questions in case you say something that may have hurt your claim. A lawyer will also be able to lay out the reason you are disabled under Social Security disability rules so that you do not have to consider this and focus on answering the questions at the hearing. A good Social Security disability lawyer will also go over with you the types of questions that will be asked at the hearing so that you will not be surprised by the questions and wondering how to answer them. If you do not have a lawyer, and do not wish to have one I strongly suggest you read my page on Social Security disability hearings as it will explain the types of questions asked, who will be there, and what you can expect. One of the biggest mistakes people make at the hearing stage is that they tend to want to tell their whole story as soon as the first question is asked at the the hearing. Try and focus on the question that is asked of you by the administrative law judge (ALJ) or lawyer and only answer that question. It is also important that you do not try and give them the answer you think they want to hear since this will leed to your testimony appearing to be unnatural and possibly even worse it could be considered exaggerating. I don't want to seem like I am promoting the fact that you need to have a lawyer at your hearing, but you should consider it because they are trained to listen to what you have to say and follow up with questions to make sure you do not go off topic or let anything you say be misinterpreted in a way that could hurt your claim. The one thing you have no control over at your hearing is what ALJ is assigned to your case. Some have very high approval ratings and others have very low approval ratings. There are ways to find out your ALJ's approval ratings on the web, but I think this is a better tool for lawyers than it is for claimants going to a hearing on their own. I say this because if a claimant sees that there ALJ has a very low approval rating they may approach how the answer their questions differently than if they have an ALJ who has a higher approval rating. Most ALJs fall somewhere in the middle and approve about 60% of the cases. What these statistics will not show you is what a particular ALJ finds to be important to them when deciding if someone is disabled. One example, is that some Administrative Law Judges value a strong work record and will deny many SSI cases or SSDI cases where a claimant has a poor work record. If you have a strong work record and you happen to have this type of ALJ assigned to your case and you only look at his approval rating you may go into the hearing thinking you have no chance of winning. The fact is, his approval rating for your type of case may be quite high, but you will not be able to find any statistics on the types of cases they tend to approve. A good Social Security disability lawyer who sees that an ALJ has a low approval rating may know the judge or will research by asking other lawyers who have had the judge what types of cases that ALJ tends to approve, and what information that particular ALJ finds to be important when he makes his decision. The lawyer can then structure his questions and arguments based on his knowledge of what is important to that particular administrative law judge. I know it sounds like I am promoting lawyers for your hearing in this post, and I guess I am, but with good reason. You have already lost your case once or twice if you are at this level. Also experienced SSDI or SSI lawyers have handled hundreds if not thousands of disability hearings and this is probably your first experience with a disability hearing. Lastly, because of this experience a lawyer has presented cases before every type of ALJ imaginable and will know how to tailor your questioning and present your arguments as to why you are disabled at your Social Security disability hearing. If you have a hearing comming up I wish you luck and if you have any questions feel free to call me or e-mail me your questions.