Your Hearing Notice has come in the mail. It’s critical that you and your Social Security disability appeal are prepared to appear before the court now that you’ve been assigned a hearing date. Here are a few pointers to help you get ready for the big day:
Before your Social Security Disability Hearing, review your Social Security file.
Your testimony and the material in your Social Security disability file (known as a “ODAR” file since it originated with the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review) will be used by the administrative law judge (ALJ) to make a determination. The following items are included in your file:
Your medical information;
Forms you’ve filled out;
Your Disability Determination Service examiner’s thoughts; and
Information and viewpoints about your functional ability.
It is critical that you (and/or your Social Security disability hearing attorney) check your ODAR file prior to the hearing.
If you are unrepresented, Social Security should provide you an encrypted compact CD containing a copy of your file. (Because this disc includes critical information, store it in a secure location and never use a public computer to access it!)
Your attorney will have access to your file if you are represented by a Social Security disability hearing counsel (usually through a highly-encrypted online portal). Your lawyer will go over your case with you, but you may be asked to provide updates on your health and treatment. When your claim is denied, the Social Security Administration usually ceases working on your case. Because you have most certainly been waiting for your hearing for months, there may be a significant amount of evidence missing from your Social Security file. Examine your whole file to see if there is any missing proof. A thorough examination may also reveal procedural or factual flaws that support your benefits claim.
In your file, update the evidence.
Once you’ve figured out what proof is lacking, you’ll need to contact Social Security. (You have an obligation to provide the ALJ with all evidence, even anything that is unfavorable to your benefits application.)
It may not be enough to just update your medical data in your file to win a claim for Social Security disability payments. You may also be required to submit:
Assessments of residual functional ability;
Doctors’ letters or sworn testimony;
information about vocations and occupations; and/or
A written argument or legal brief in support of your disability claim.
Because each case is unique, the evidence you present should be tailored to your claim and circumstances. If you’ve been working a part-time job, for example, you should inquire about your performance, accommodations, and absenteeism from your present employer. This information will assist the ALJ in determining how your medical issues affect your ability to perform.
Prepare to provide a testimony on your symptoms and daily routine.
At their hearings, the majority of Social Security disability petitioners testify. The testimony may be quick or lengthy and thorough, depending on the judge. In most cases, you’ll testify about:
Your professional background and education;
Your family and living circumstances;
Any present sources of income;
Describe your medical issues and symptoms.
Treatment techniques and drugs (including adverse effects);
Hobbies and daily activities; and
Abuse or misuse of substances (if this is part of your history, noted in your records).
Prepare to talk about all of these topics at your hearing. In the weeks preceding up to your hearing, keep a symptom and activity record. Make a few notes about your: in a notepad or calendar each day.
the intensity of the symptoms;
Level of activity (what you can and can’t accomplish); and
Any adjustments to your treatment plan? (increased medications or rest periods, for example).
This journal will assist you in giving precise and thorough testimony at your hearing. It might also assist you in identifying factors that aggravate your symptoms (such as increased activity, stress, or dietary changes).
Find out who will be in attendance at your hearing.
The average number of participants in attendance at a Social Security disability hearing is three to six. Each individual has a distinct function to play and is governed by strict privacy and confidentiality guidelines.
You will engage with the following people throughout your hearing:
The ALJ is a Social Security Administration official who serves as an administrative judge. The judge’s responsibility is to assess your claim and make a new, impartial disability determination.
A Hearing Monitor is a contract worker who maintains a recording equipment and keeps track of the proceedings for the ALJ. The ALJ will not discuss the case with the hearing monitor, and the hearing monitor will not assist in the decision-making process.
Every Social Security hearing is attended by these two people. The following individuals may also be present at your hearing:
A Social Security Disability Hearing Attorney: If you have one, your Social Security disability hearing attorney will attend the hearing and assist you throughout the procedure. Your lawyer, unlike the other people in the room, is your advocate and is on your side.
A vocational expert is a witness who has knowledge on how to classify employment and job searches. He or she could characterize your previous employment in terms of its physical and mental challenges. The vocational expert may also advise the judge on possible job opportunities for you, subject to specific limitations.
A Medical Expert: A medical expert is a doctor who will analyze some of your medical data and give his or her opinion on the severity of your diagnosis. Experts in medicine and the workplace are expected to be objective. Expert witnesses may or may not be present, depending on the facts of your case.
Seek the advice of a seasoned Social Security Disability Hearing Lawyer.
Preparing a Social Security claim for a hearing takes time and necessitates a thorough legal and medical examination. The more you understand about the hearing process and the kinds of evidence that will persuade the ALJ, the more powerful your case will be. It might make all the difference if you have an experienced Social Security disability hearing attorney on your side. Please contact us by phone or via the email form on this page if you would like to talk with a competent Social Security disability hearing attorney.