Most applicants for Social Security disability benefits are not approved initially. According to the latest program statistics, only about 20% of applications are approved at the initial adjudicative level, meaning that the rest must move on to higher levels of review before they are ultimately approved. One of the most nerve-wracking components of the Social Security disability application process is the hearing, in which an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) questions the applicant about his or her condition. While we understand that speaking to a judge is intimidating for many people, our Baltimore Social Security lawyer has represented many applicants in Social Security disability hearings and has learned a few tips and tricks along the way for answering judges’ questions.
One of the easiest ways to maintain your credibility before a judge is to have answers readily available for his or her questions. While the judge has access to your file containing all of your information, he or she likely still has questions concerning the scope and severity of your condition and will expect you to be able to provide relevant answers. Before your hearing, review your case file — your resume, your work history, summaries of doctor visits, and your disability journal — to brush up on the details.
The importance of honesty in an administrative hearing goes without saying. Never, under any circumstance, lie, distort, or otherwise bend the truth, even if you think the truth will harm your case. Social Security ALJs have heard hundreds or even thousands of cases each and are experts at detecting dishonesty and inconsistency. Dishonesty toward an ALJ may even be considered disability fraud and could potentially expose you to penalties.
Make Sure You Understand What Is Being Asked
ALJs are human, and thus are prone to occasional inelegant speech. At other times, they may make use of legal or medical phrases you have never heard before. If you do not understand a question, do not be afraid to ask the judge for clarification or consult with your attorney before you answer. The judge wants to get to the bottom of the matter and, in the vast majority of cases, will be happy to make a question easier for you to answer.
Answer What Is Asked, and Only What Is Asked
Your ALJ likely will be looking for short, concise answers to the questions he or she poses to you. As such, you should answer each question as directly and simply as possible. For example, if the judge asks if you have a driver’s license, answer either “yes” or “no”; do not go into an extended story of your driving history and habits. Rambling answers add to the length of the proceeding and can cause it to get off track. Answering more than what is asked can also get you into trouble — you might inadvertently say something that could harm your case.
Contact a Baltimore Social Security Lawyer for Further Assistance
Social Security disability hearings can be intimidating, but you can increase your chances of success with the help of an attorney. For more information, please contact Baltimore Social Security lawyer Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.