Prepping for the Disability Hearing
Truth be told, through experience in representing clients before the Social Security Administration in disability appeals, we have learned how to successfully leverage certain aspects of the disability benefits hearing to a client’s advantage. However, that being said, prior preparation is paramount to winning Social Security disability benefits by way of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decision. A few vital things to consider are noted hereinafter. Request to attend the hearing. Don’t go overboard though and consider this an acting job. Exaggerating your stated restrictions and limitations is fatal to a disability claim. Your testimony must be credible and reliable. However, consistently conveying relevant information alone is not enough. Your appearance also must serve to humanize your case and have the ALJ associate an actual face with your file, preferably a sympathetic one. Thus, it is imperative that you retain a disability lawyer well in advance of the hearing who knows how to prep a witness properly. And not just any disability attorney, but one who handles the majority of his or her cases in this area of specialization, and regularly appears before Social Security judges in your jurisdiction. Remember, a good attorney knows the law, but an excellent one knows the judge, meaning he or she understands the type of proof expected to win before the ALJ assigned to your case. Updated medicals from supporting physicians, to include questionnaires tailored for specific impairments and narratives are a must. Although a treating physician who has a longitudinal relationship with a patient carries the most evidentiary weight, if necessary, seek out a physician for an independent medical examination (IME) as well. When a claim is borderline a solid IME may help win you Social Security disability benefits. Favorable medical proof should be forwarded to the assigned ALJ and/or hearing office in advance of your disability hearing date, with a well-written summary by your disability advocate. Waiting until the date of your hearing and attempting to submit updated medicals to an already stressed out ALJ is not best practice.