I am not an attorney, nor do I have any experience in the legal field at all. This post does NOT constitute legal advice. If you have any questions at all please consult an attorney. Before using any tips contained within this blog post series, I advise you to seek the opinion of an attorney. This post is from an email that a follower of The Fibro Frog sent me. She received it from an attorney's assistant. However, I do not have the name of the attorney, assistant, or the law firm. Therefore I can not give proper credit to them. I have to hand type this all out, or else it isn't large enough for people to read. I can't do that all in one shot, it's impossible with the pain and fatigue I have. Therefore there will be a series of posts made, until I get it all done.
The Order In Which Things Happen At The Hearing
Many judges begin disability hearings by reciting the "case history" of your disability claim and stating the issues to be decided. Judges often state what you have to prove in your case - but they seldom give a clear and simple explaination. They usually say that in order to be found disabled you must be "unable to perform substantial gainful activity which exists in significant numbers in the economy, considering your age, education and work experience". When they say this, it almost sounds like you've got to be bedridden to get disability benefits - but, as will be explained in more detail later, this isn't true. The judge may question you first. Then the judge will give your lawyer a chance to ask you some questions. Occassionaly, if a claimant is well prepared to testify, the lawyer doesn't have to ask any questions at all. Some judges, however, expect lawyers to handle most of the questioning. If so, answer questions asked by your lawyer as if a stranger were the one asking them. Sometimes a claimant may give less than complete answers when his or her lawye asks questions, because the lawyer knows a lot about the case already. So, it is important to keep in mind that the judge, who will decide your case, doesn't know the answers until you say them. Although the judge will probably read your file before the hearing, when you're testifying, it is best to assume the judge knows nothing about your case. Plan on explaining everything. At the end of the hearing, some judges will ask you if you have anything more to say. It's best if you don't try to argue your case at this point - let your lawyer do that. Most judges will give a lawyer the opportunity to make a closing argument either at the end of the hearing or to be submitted in writing. Most judges won't tell you if you've won, although a few will. A few judges issue what is called a "bench decision", that is, a decision stated right at the hearing. Even if the judge issues a bench decision, the judge still must issue a short written decision, which will be mailed to you with a copy to your lawyer. The wonderful thing about the written part of the bench decision is that it comes only a few days after the hearing. When the judge issues a regular decision, sometimes it takes quite a while for the decision to come out.
What To Wear
A lot of people ask what to wear, whether they should dress up. You do not need to dress up, and you do not need to wear the same clothes that you would wear to a wedding. This is an informal hearing. You may wear whatever makes you comfortable (within reason).
The most important thing of a Social Security hearing is not what you wear. It is what you say. It is whether or not you are telling the truth. Tell the truth. When a judge asks a question, don't try to figure out why the judge is asking that particular question or whether your answer will help or hurt your case. Be candid about your strengths as well as about your limitations. The best way to lose a good case is for the judge to think that you're not telling the truth. So, testify truthfully. And, don't do any play-acting for the judge. That is, don't pretend to cry or be in more pain than you are. On the other hand, you need not suffer silently or minimize your problems when you tell the judge how you feel. If you need to take a break from the hearing, ask the judge for permission. If you are uncomfortable sitting and it would help to stand up for a while, you may do so, and you should not be embarrassed about it.