If you have requested an administrative law judge hearing in your Social Security disability case, you want to take every step possible to present a clear and convincing argument to your judge. Since disability hearings typically last only about 45 minutes to an hour, there is little time to waste. Read more from me about disability hearings – click here.
Generally the first 15 to 20 minutes of your hearing will involve procedural and background material. Vocational witness testimony at the end of your hearing will take 10 to 15 minutes, which means that the judge will expect you and your attorney to present the main points of your case within 30 to 40 minutes.
As the claimant – the person seeking disability benefits – you can and should rely on your lawyer to prepare a thoughtful argument and direct examination questions that he can ask you to help the judge get a sense of your credibility and honesty. It goes without saying that your lawyer should request and submit medical evidence so that your file will be complete.
Besides answer questions, however, there are some specific steps you can take to help your lawyer and to make good use of the precious time allotted to you during your hearing 1. Specifically, you do not want the preliminary and background portion of the hearing to take longer than 10 to 15 minutes and you can play an important role in this regard by having certain information at your fingertips.
First, you should have a list of your past jobs over the past 15 years. Ideally this means that you should know the name of your past employers, the type of work that you performed, the job title and why you left that job. If you received any special considerations, make note of that as well.
You now know that the judge will ask you about your past work so you should not wait until the day of your hearing to start thinking about this topic. Further, if you have worked at all after the date you claim your disability began (your onset date), be prepared to explain why you have post-onset date earnings. Perhaps these earnings represent an unsuccessful work attempt, or perhaps you need to discuss changing your onset date with your lawyer.
Second, you should have a list of all of your current medications as well as a list of previous medications you have tried and that were discontinued. Many judges look at medication lists to evaluate the severity of your medical condition and to gauge your credibility when you speak of side effects.
Write down a list of each medication, the dosage prescribed, the prescribing doctor and any side effects. If you have not been able to afford your medications, make note of that as well.
Third, you should coordinate with your lawyer to make sure that all recent medical treatment has been listed. Perhaps you went to a new doctor last week, or you underwent an MRI or CT scan. Make sure that your lawyer knows about this recent treatment so he can ask the judge to leave the record open for a few days to obtain and submit these records.
It is not a problem to use written notes when you testify at your hearing. If you are organized and help the judge make good use of the preliminary information portion of your hearing, you increase the probability that the judge will find your credible and likeable. I have been at a few hearings where the opposite was true and my client used up half of his hearing time trying to remember dates of past work and to explain earnings after the onset date. In this particular case much of what my client was talking about had never been discussed with me in our pre-hearing meeting, so I was not able to jump in to try to rescue my client.
The judge knows that you have been waiting 2 years or longer to get a hearing date. Don’t start off on a bad foot by showing up unprepared.