Watching What You Say at a Social Security Disability Hearing

benefits written on padDisability hearings in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ) are less formal than traditional courtroom hearings. However, these hearings should be taken seriously because they determine whether or not you meet the Social Security’s definition of being disabled.

What you say to the ALJ at the hearing is likely to be an important factor in getting your disability claim approved or denied. It is important to pay close attention to what is being asked, avoid offering more information than asked, and be cautious when phrasing your answers.

Below, our attorneys discuss some things you should avoid saying at your disability hearing to protect your claim. If you have already been denied benefits, we are here to help you. You can get answers to your questions during a free initial consultation. There is no obligation involved.

Available 24/7 to Take Your Call: (920) 260-4528.

“I Cannot Find a Job or Nobody Will Hire Me”

Saying either of these things suggests that you are capable of working. Social Security Disability benefits, however, are only awarded if your impairment prevents you from being able to work. They are not awarded because you cannot find a job.

The ALJ may take these statements as evidence that you have the physical capability to work and therefore deny your disability claim. If you are asked why are not working, let the ALJ know how your impairment makes it impossible for you to work, do past work and perform any work-related tasks.

You can also let the ALJ know the reason(s) why you cannot do a proposed job. Perhaps you have certain limitations caused by your impairment that do not allow you to do sedentary work, such as an inability to sit down or stand for long hours. You may also be unable to bend or kneel to pick up items.

“I Cannot Get Any Relief for My Pain”

Oftentimes claimants lie or exaggerate the severity of their disability and how it impacts their daily life in a misguided effort to increase their chances of being granted benefits. Not being truthful about the level of pain you are experiencing can negatively affect your claim and destroy any credibility you have.

The ALJ is well aware that most impairments will cause different levels of pain and discomfort that make it difficult to work and perform day-to-day activities. However, saying that your pain level is always at a 10 and that you cannot get any relief for your pain may cause the ALJ to question your claim.

“I Am Not Being Treated for My Disability”

Protecting your well-being and disability claim requires regularly attending your doctor’s appointments and abiding by his or her prescribed treatment plan. Not visiting your doctor could impact your ability to be awarded benefits. The ALJ may think that your disability is not as severe as you say. Otherwise, you would be doing everything you possibly could to get treatment and manage your symptoms.

If you are not actively getting treatment, let the ALJ know why. Perhaps you do not have the money to travel to your doctor’s appointments, pay for necessary tests or see a specialist. The ALJ is aware not all claimants can afford to visit the doctor on a regular basis.

If you sought treatment in the past, let the ALJ know about the treatments you have received and the medications you have taken. Perhaps a treatment was not working, or a medication caused harmful side effects.

“I Have Been Convicted of a Crime”

Being convicted of a crime may affect your ability to be granted disability benefits in some cases. For instance, evading arrest, violating parole or probation, or becoming disabled while committing a crime could hurt your chances of receiving benefits.

It is important to be honest and let the ALJ know what happened. Be sure to also mention if you received treatment for your disability while in jail or prison and the reason(s) you are unable to work.

“I Have a History of Substance Use”

A disability claim cannot be denied simply because you have a history of substance abuse. However, you may not be awarded benefits if your addiction to alcohol or drugs contributed to you being disabled.

Avoid saying that you have an issue with alcohol or drugs unless directly asked by the ALJ. If this question does come up, be sure to be forthcoming and explain what happened. Perhaps you have taken steps or are actively taking the necessary steps to put a stop to your addiction.

Avoid Saying Just “Yes” to Questions

Your impairment may prevent you from doing certain activities you used to do and perhaps even enjoyed. If the ALJ asks you questions about your ability to cook or do the laundry, avoid simply saying just “Yes.”

This statement is too vague. The ALJ may think that you can do these activities regularly or without any difficulty and deny your disability claim. It is best to be specific with the ALJ about the activities you are able to do and how often you are able to do them.

For instance, if you can cook, let the ALJ know that sometimes you can cook for the whole family, but more often than not, you are in serious pain and do not have the strength to cook. This statement offers a more accurate description of how your impairment limits your day-to-day activities.

Years of Experience Representing Claimants. Call for Legal Help

Our Social Security Disability attorneys in Appleton are well-versed in the disability claims process and ready to help you navigate the Social Security Disability system.

The initial consultation we offer is 100 percent free and confidential. There are zero upfront fees to represent you. We only get paid for the services we provide if we help you obtain benefits.

Trusted Legal Help. Ph: (920) 260-4528.