A Social Security hearing with an administrative law judge is often your best chance to have your disability application approved. To maximize your chances of success, get prepared and be ready for your hearing date.
Know where it is, how to get there, where to park.
In normal times your hearing will be at the Social Security office - either in person with the administrative law judge in the same room, or with them on video. However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the offices are closed. If the office is still closed when it’s time for your hearing, it will be by phone or video. But if it is at the Social Security office, know where your hearing is, how to get there, and where to park ahead of time. If you’re late for your hearing you might lose it or have to wait several more months for a new date.
Get your paperwork well ahead of time.
Your disability case is only as strong as your medical records. Do not rely on Social Security to obtain your medical records (or to have read them) for you. Medical records should be filed at least 5 days before the hearing, but the sooner the better. If you have a doctor’s appointment the month of the hearing and haven’t gotten the records yet - ask for more time to submit them after the hearing.
If you can’t sit for more than 30 minutes and you live 45 minutes form the Social Security office, be ready to talk about how you got there. If you can’t drive more than to the grocery store and back - who drove you to the hearing office?
Now is not the time to be shy.
The hearing is not church, but it can last up to an hour. If your back, or leg, or whatever ailment you have is acting up and you feel like you might get some relief from standing up - ask to stand up and stretch. If you have a lawyer representing you, they should use that opportunity to get on the record what you’re doing and why.
More importantly, this is not the time to suck it up and act tough. Never exaggerate your symptoms because it’s dishonest, the judge will know it, and it will discredit your case. But out of polite habit some claimants minimize their pain, their limitations, and how their medical conditions affect daily life.
The hearing is not the time to be shy about your limitations. This is the time to be open about the difficultly you face because of your health. Be open to the point of embarrassment in your hearing. Don’t assume the judge knows anything about how your day to day life is affected.
Bring a lawyer with you.
There is no substitute for having a lawyer with you at a hearing. Claimants with lawyers are almost three times as likely to be awarded benefits than those without a lawyer to help them. If you’re in Alabama, contact Disability Alabama for help with your claim. If you’re not in Alabama, find a lawyer who will meet with you and who you feel comfortable with.