You’ve waited for so long and now, you finally have a social security disability hearing date. Don’t get excited just yet, having a hearing does not automatically mean you’ll be granted social security disability benefits. This will depend solely on what the administrative law judge (ALJ) deems just with regard to the circumstances. With that being said, presenting yourself well, avoiding certain pitfalls and having an experienced New York social security disability claims lawyer representing you will significantly increase your chances of being granted the benefits.
Pitfalls to Avoid during Your Hearing
- Over Exaggerating or Under Stating Your SymptomsDuring the hearing, the ALJ will ask you about your symptoms. You might be tempted to go overboard by giving a chilling narrative of how the symptoms have caused you immeasurable grief and monumental burden. This will not help your case. The law does not require you be bedridden or completely incapacitated for you to qualify for disability benefits. Simply proving you are unable to perform income-earning activities that are in abundance will suffice.In fact, over exaggerating will make you sound dishonest, destroying your credibility in the eyes of the ALJ.
Stick to the truth. Describe your symptoms in realistic language. Remember your testimony has to match your medical evidence.
Similarly, do not understate your symptoms. If your disability has made you depressed or anxious, say it. If your back pain prevents you from doing housework, say so. If your headaches get worse if you stare at the computer for long, say so. Give the ALJ a clear, truthful picture of your symptoms.
- Making Vague StatementsWhen the ALJ asks you about something directly, answer directly. For example, if you are asked how painful your symptoms are, do not respond with “Pretty much” or “A lot.” It would be better to respond, “On a scale of one to 10, I’d say seven.” Use descriptive words such as “biting,” “burning,” or “shooting,” to describe pain.Quantify your symptoms. Don’t say, “I usually get a lot of migraines.” Say something like, “I get three to five migraines in a week.”
Use day-to-day examples if you have to. Tell the ALJ about that recent time your anxiety made it impossible for you to go for Thanksgiving or how you dropped and broke the dishes because of your arthritis.
- Making Statements that Hurt Your CaseReally, your hearing is not the time to open up about your criminal history or drug abuse. Similarly, do not disclose how you have family members who also receive disability or unemployment benefits (unless the ALJ specifically asks you this), how you did not follow the doctor’s orders or how your town has no employers.
- Failing to PrepareBefore your hearing, make sure to look at the application you made for disability benefits and the supporting medical report. If your records contain bad facts such as a history of over-reliance on pain medication or failure to stick to prescriptions, prepare to explain these at the hearing.Likewise, you can ask a close friend such as a roommate or co-worker to be your witness. Make sure the witness is someone who can testify to your abilities and limitations before the injury and after the injury. They can even give evidence about your struggles at work, school or home.
- Failing to Observe Courtroom Etiquette Ultimately, judges determine cases on the points of fact and law. However, it does not hurt to be on their good side. Arrive about 30 minutes early for the hearing. Dress appropriately. Stand when the judge enters. Be polite and courteous. Answer questions directly and in a clear voice. Do not mumble, shout or veer off-topic. Follow instructions when given.
If you have received a notice for your hearing date and need to prepare, the New York City attorneys at the Seelig Law Offices are available to discuss your case. Contact us today at 212.766.0600.