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Common Sense Advice About Your Social Security Disability Hearing Testimony

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Tell The Truth

The most important advice I can give you is to simply tell the truth while testifying. When questioned by your attorney or the judge give candid and truthful answers. Your attorney will prepare you before the Social Security disability hearing on the type of questions that will be asked of you so you will feel comfortable when testifying. However if you are not sure about a question asked of you or you do not understand the question you can ask that they repeat or rephrase the question. Remember that your testimony is under oath and is recorded and may be reviewed after the hearing by the judge in deciding your Social Security disability claim so make sure your answers are truthful. Also your attorney will help to clarify your testimony by asking you further questions if you gave incomplete answers.   

Testify Fully and Thoroughly

When testifying at the hearing this is your only chance to let the judge who will decide your Social Security disability claim know why your medical conditions prevent you from working. Many disability claimants think since they are claiming benefits from the Social Security Administration and dealing with the federal government that it's best to give short answers, not volunteer anything and keep their mouth shut. Since the disability hearing is an informal and non-adversarial process and the claimant has the burden in proving that they are entitled to Social Security disability benefits, I advise my clients to testify with sufficient facts and details in explaining their problems, limitations and medical conditions to convince the judge of the seriousness of their disabilities.

General Questions You Will be Asked To Testify About

The claimant will be asked questions by their attorney and by the judge (some judges let the attorneys ask questions first and may have some follow up questions but other judges like to ask questions first then allow the attorney to question the claimant further). The following are general areas the claimant will usually testify about at the Social Security disability hearing:
 
Your Education
Your Employment
Your Medical History
Your Symptoms and Limitations
Your Daily Activities

The judge will want to know about how far you went in school, whether you graduated from high school, vocational school or college and if you had any on the job training. The more formal education you have the more difficult it is to obtain Social Security disability benefits as you would have more transferable job skills to do other work. You will also testify about any jobs you worked in the past 15 years, your responsibilities and duties on the job and why you left your last job before applying for disability benefits. Prior to the hearing, you would have completed forms about your work history that asks you about former employers, dates of employment, job titles and duties, how much time you spent on your prior jobs in a 8 hour work day lifting, standing, sitting, walking, using a computer or telephone, interacting with the public, etc. so some judges may not ask too many details about prior jobs if there is already detailed information in your file. Generally the longer you have worked then more likely to be found disabled. For example if a claimant had 30 years of continuous employment then had some disabling medical conditions the judge would be more likely to find the claimant credible in their testimony when awarding benefits as contrasted to a claimant who had a spotty employment history with periods of unemployment, worked a job for a few months then unemployed for months throughout their work history.

The judge will want to know about your medical conditions and how often you treat with a doctor(s), any surgeries, any hospitalizations, any medications you are taking and side effects, if any. Often Social Security disability claimants do not have health insurance and do not have the money to seek consistent medical treatment and you can explain this to the judge if you have had infrequent medical treatment to document your disabilities. Also you will be asked to testify about your symptoms and limitations due to your medical problems and you need to give specific details so the judge can understand the seriousness of your limitations. For example, if you testified that you can not walk very far due to your asthma and back pain that does not really tell the judge anything useful in determining if you are disabled, but if you testified in more detail that you can walk about one block but that you would be out of breath due to your asthma and you would experience discomfort in your back due to your spinal arthritis then that would help corroborate your limitations that are in your medical records.
 
You will also be asked to testify at the Social Security disability hearing about your daily activities at home since you are not working. The judge will want to know if you cook meals at home, do laundry, do house cleaning, mow the yard, take care of your children, watch television, use a computer, drive a vehicle etc to determine your limitations. If you testified that you could generally do all of the above the judge may think you do not have any disabling conditions but if you testified truthfully that you can prepare simple meals such as making sandwiches but could not make a meal where you would have to stand for an hour or more, can do laundry but may have to spread it out over the day to take rest periods, can vacuum a few rooms before needing a break, then a vacuum a few more rooms the next day, etc. then this provides more detailed information to the judge on your limitations and disabilities.  

If you have any questions about Social Security disability, you can call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213, go to their website at www.ssa.gov or call The Nuebel Law Firm, P.A. at 407-703-5999 for a free consultation.

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