Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Social Security Disability Hearing: How to Prepare to Win.

If you are not represented by a lawyer and your hearing is scheduled it is a good idea to make sure you get a copy of your file from Social Security and review it. Most files today are on a disk. When your hearing is scheduled you are supposed to receive a copy of your file with this hearing notice. If you did not receive a copy of your file you should contact the hearing office (ODAR) and request it. When you put the disc in your computer there is instructions on how to view your file. You will want to look at the exhibit list index. The most important section of the disc is known as the F section. This is where all your medical evidence is kept. You should review this section and make sure that all of your medical records have been received by Social Security. If you find there is evidence not in the file you should do all you can to get the evidence submitted to Social Security before your hearing. This will also be your first opportunity to see what the Social Security doctors and employees have said about your condition and your limitations from those conditions. You will also want to make sure there is opinions from your own doctors of your limitations from your medical conditions. Before your hearing you should take notes of what each F exhibit contains. Each medical document is given an exhibit number such as 1F, 2F and so on. If you have notes on what each of these exhibits contain you can refer to them by the exhibit number so the ALJ will know exactly what exhibit you are referring to. You may want to point out at the end of the hearing which exhibits are particularly helpful in showing you are disabled. This does take some skill, and knowledge of how Social Security determines if you are disabled. If you have read my Social Security disability website and the SSA website and studied them as it pertains to your particular case and feel you are knowledgeable enough to be able to make your arguments at the hearing, then you may be able to do this yourself. However, you have waited a long time for this hearing and you do not want to waste this opportunity to win your case. So, if you have any doubt about your ability to handle your own case at the hearing level it would be a good idea to get a lawyer at this point to do this for you. Even if you are comfortable with your ability, knowledge of your case, and the law chances are an experienced Social Security disability lawyer who has handled many disability hearings will be able to do a better job of presenting your case at a hearing. If there is a medical expert or vocational expert at your hearing this will make the hearing even more complicated. Knowing your file inside and out will be needed to have the ability to cross examine the vocational expert and medical expert if needed. Medical experts will give a summary of your medical history. They will also give their opinion as to whether or not you meet or equal any of the listed impairments. They may also be asked to give their opinion of your limitations from your medical conditions in their particular specialty. The vocational experts job at the hearing, is to give a summary of your work history and classify those jobs as to what exertional level they were performed at and the skills required to do those jobs. They will also give an opinion as to whether or not any of the skills are transferable to other types of work. The judge will also ask hypothetical questions based on the medical evidence in the file and what your file shows your limitations are. The vocational expert will then give an opinion as to whether you can perform your prior work based on that hypothetical. The vocational expert may also be asked to give an opinion if there is any other work that could be performed based on the limitations in the hypothetical. If the VE finds there is other work based on the hypothetical he or she will then give an estimation of the number of jobs available in both the local and national economy. The key to a hearing with experts is to know what questions to ask and sometimes when not to ask questions. Hearings with experts are best handled by lawyers with extensive experience in dealing with them. A Social Security disability lawyer will know how to use the evidence in the file to cross examine these experts if their testimony is unfavorable to you. This is one area where I find it particularly difficult to try and explain to a claimant without a lawyer how to handle this type of hearing. No matter what I tell you it cannot make up for three years of law school and many years of dealing with these types of cases. So if you know experts are going to be at your hearing it would be a good idea to consider a lawyer at this point. I try to provide as much information as possible on my websites and blogs, but sometimes you can make up for experience in handling certain situations that arise in a SSDI or SSI claim. Your hearing notice will say what if any experts will be at your hearing.