What You Should Know About Social Security Disability Hearings

Social Security Disability Hearings

Funded by payroll taxes, employees are eligible to receive Social Security disability insurance after they have worked long enough to pay into Social Security with the FICA taxes deducted from their pay. In order to qualify for disability benefits, an employee must have worked in jobs covered by Social Security and have a medical condition that meets certain requirements.

If you suffer from serious physical or mental condition, your conditions could inhibit your ability to perform your job properly, comfortably and safely. At that point, you can apply for Social Security benefits. Unfortunately, benefits are sometimes denied and you’ll need to schedule a hearing in front of a judge to plead your case. Here’s some helpful information about Social Security disability hearings that can help.

Attend your Social Security disability hearing in person

A judge may make an exception if you are physically unable to appear and allow you to participate via phone; however, it is always in your best interest to attend your Social Security disability hearing in person. This is your hearing, you are the one who is injured, and your testimony is needed to win your claim. Being present at your hearing is important because the judge can observe your physical impairments in person. If your injury affects your ability to walk steadily or sit comfortably, the judge needs to see it. Even your facial expressions can make a difference in your case. The Social Security disability hearing is your chance to present your case in person so don’t miss the opportunity, if possible.

Be clear and descriptive when explaining the pain from your injury

When testifying at a Social Security disability hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will ask questions about where your pain is located and to describe how it feels. Make sure you are clear and detailed when explaining your pain and use descriptive terms like sharp, stabbing, throbbing, dull or burning. Tell the judge how often and under what circumstances you feel pain, such as when you sit, stand, walk, lift your arms, etc. Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 to demonstrate the severity of the pain, and explain to what extent medications alleviate the pain, or don’t. Above all, it’s important to be honest. Your medical records only tell part of the story; you are the only person experiencing the pain so you should be the one describing it.

Expect other testimonies and understand why they are necessary

The Social Security Administration (SSA) commonly hires a Vocational Expert (VE) to testify at a Social Security disability hearing. Considered to be a job expert, the Vocational Expert is there to explain the physical requirements of the work you have done in the past, in a non-biased manner. The judge utilizes the VE’s expertise by asking various hypothetical questions to determine if your injury restricts you from being able to return to your past job duties or if there are other jobs available that you could perform, even with your injury. For example, if your pain is only present while standing, could you transition to a seated occupation so you would be able to continue working? The judge may even ask more general questions about jobs in the economy nationwide that could be performed by someone with your qualifications and physical restrictions. After the judge has finished, your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the Vocational Expert to help prove you are unable to work, if that is the case.

Work with a Social Security disability attorney

The Social Security claims process is complicated, and without professional legal representation from an experienced attorney, it can be difficult to achieve a positive outcome. Starting with a free initial consultation, a Social Security lawyer will be able to tell if your case has a high likelihood of success and determine if he or she will represent you. While working with your attorney, you will not be charged a fee unless you win your case.

At Gottlieb, Johnston, Beam & Dal Ponte, P.L.L., our Social Security disability lawyers are familiar with what is required by Social Security regulations to prove a disability and will pursue all options available to help our clients secure the benefits they need. Contact us today to see if you have a case!