If your application for reconsideration is denied, you have the right to an appeal before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who is employed by the Social Security Administration. The judge’s job is to review the facts of your case and make a decision on whether or not you should receive benefits. The fact that you were denied at the time of your initial application and at the reconsideration stage is not something the judge is to consider. Each judge has their own method for conducting the hearing. Some judges will ask all the questions and some will expect your attorney to ask all relevant questions.
You can expect questions to be asked regarding the following areas:
1. Work history – You will be asked about your past employment. They will ask you how long you worked each job, what your duties were, how much lifting, standing, sitting, reaching and bending was involved. These questions are asked to determine the physical requirements of the job. If the judge believes that you can perform any of your past relevant work then you will be found not disabled.
In some cases there will be a vocational expert present to identify and classify the type of work you have done in the past and whether or not your disability is too severe to allow for employment in your past profession. If the expert determines that you can not perform your current job, they will try to identify jobs that you could be trained to perform with your disability. The vocational expert will take into consideration your skill sets, educational level, age and job experience.
2. Education – You will be asked about your education so that the Judge can determine what kind of jobs you may be able to do with your disability.
3. Medical history – You will be asked about your doctors, what kind of treatments you are getting, and if there are any plans for surgery. You will also be questioned about the types of medications you are taking and if these medications have any side effects.
4. Symptoms – When listing your symptoms, make sure you state specifically how often are you in pain and for how long. Does the pain complicate, interrupt or prevent proper sleep? Does your pain prevent you from leading a normal life and participating in every day activities? State the severity of your pain and describe it so that the disability examiner understands the extent of your pain and how it affects your daily life.
5. Your estimate of your work limitations – There will also be a series of questions about your limitations from your condition, such as how much weight can you lift, how long you can stand, sit, and walk. Expect questions about whether or not you can you use your hands for things like picking up small objects or grabbing larger objects. If you suffer from a psychiatric condition you may be asked if you have any problems with memory or concentration or how do you get along with others.
6. Your daily activities – You will need to answer questions about your daily activities and how your disability affects what you do in a typical day.
You should also be ready to answer the one question that summarizes what the hearing is all about and that is “why do you think you are disabled?” or “why can you no longer work a full time job?” These questions are your chance to share with the judge your theory on why you should win your case. You should keep your answer focused on the limitations you have as a result of your medical impairments.
One of the most important things about your testimony is to tell the truth. Don’t try to figure out why the judge is asking you a particular question or how your answer will affect your case, just testify truthfully. Also you need to make sure you provide enough facts, details and explanation to the judge regarding your disability. For more information about the disability hearing process please visit the Social Security Administration’s website.
I specialize in social security disability and have been practicing law for over 20 years. My firm, James E. Short, PLC, is located in the Greenbrier section of Chesapeake. Please contact me today – free of charge – to discuss how I can help you recover the social security benefits you may be entitled to receive.