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5 Tips to Be Prepared for Your Social Security Disability Hearing

Securing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can be a challenge, especially with limited law knowledge. The key to success lies in thorough preparation, a clear understanding of the proceedings and the ability to present a compelling case. Black & Jones is proud to help Rockford and the local surrounding communities, equipping you with the assurance and knowledge you need to pursue SSI or SSDI benefits you deserve.

Understanding the Appeals Process

Unfortunately, from high rejection rates to a rocky approval process, the SSI and SSDI paths can often involve navigating through a complex web of appeals. In fact, as of 2021, nearly 80 percent of applications are denied initially

That number can be extremely daunting—but not for an experienced SSI and SSDI attorney who knows how to navigate the appeal process. Appealing the decision and reaching the hearing stage can significantly increase your chances of approval. And, all of this can be achieved with the support of a trusted law professional.

    Sneak Peak: Social Security Disability Hearing

    Initially, you’ll be asked to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The hearing stage is where applicants see the highest disability approval rates. Here’s a simplified breakdown of what to expect here:

    1. Giving Your Testimony: You’ll discuss your medical condition, symptoms, work history and daily life related to your medical condition.

    2. Listening to Witnesses: Vocational experts and personal witnesses may provide additional information.

    3. Cross-Examination: The ALJ and your legal representative may question witnesses.

    4. Review of Medical Records: The ALJ will assess any additional evidence submitted since the initial decision.

    5. Final Decision: The ALJ will issue a written decision on your eligibility for SSI or SSDI benefits.

    Now, where do you start?

    Step 1 to Being Fully Prepped for Your SSD Hearing

    Like a job interview, you’ll want to make sure you take all the proper steps for success. Of course, this can be higher stakes, as having been a part of SSI and SSDI cases for decades, we have a few tips to keep in mind!

    As a general tip, if you can't attend the hearing, notify the SSA as soon as possible, providing written notice.

    1. Start by reviewing your file. This is mainly to ensure consistency across your application and testimony.

    2. Prepare a cheat sheet with answers to potential questions. Again, you’ll want to make sure you’re being consistent with the details for the initial application.

    3. Submit recent medical information and notify the SSA of any changes in your condition before the hearing.

    4. Request a written statement from your doctor about your condition and its impact on your ability to work. Submit this as early as you can.

    5. The attire recommended for these hearings is smart-casual.

    Check out the full list of evidence you need for your hearing, and what the difference between SSI and SSDI means for you.

    Step 2: Answering Questions Accurately

    Prepare for common questions that may be asked during the hearing. One of the most common pitfalls is responding with a vague response. We recommend that if you don't know an answer, don’t be afraid to ask for a moment to think about the question at hand.

    And, don’t forget to always focus on providing specific and truthful information.

    During the hearing, focus on the following topics:

    • Physical Symptoms: Describe your pain severity and restrictions.

    • Functional Capacity: Address your ability to perform various activities. Can you sit, stand, etc. with ease?

    • Daily Activities (if applicable): Discuss changes you’ve noticed due to your disability.

    • Job Requirements: Highlight the exertional, skill and stress levels of past jobs (up to 15 years of experience).

    • Medical Treatment: Provide details on your current medical treatment, including how long and how often you’re seeking treatment or taking medication.

    Step 3: Get Acquainted with the Room Layout and Presentation

    Understand the layout of the hearing room—whether in person or via telephone and familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Getting a sense of your surroundings can help you feel at ease during the process. It’s not the huge, open room you see on television. Typically, you’ll find the following elements:

    • Table with microphone and computer for the claimant/disability attorney

    • Space with computer and microphone for a vocational expert

    • Area for judge’s aide/hearing reporter

    • Judge’s bench with computer or video screen for ALJ in video hearings

    Your lawyer will more than likely map out the layout for you prior to the hearing as well. They’ll also make sure you know that hearings are a private matter, and only include the participants and a witness, if required. 

      Step 4: Focus on Your Testimony

      Adhering to the rules of the hearing will greatly increase your chances of succeeding in court. And while there’s no guarantee that you will win, there are best practices to keep in mind as you share your testimony. After you take an oath and declare to tell the truth, remember to:

      • Speak clearly and loudly as you answer questions

      • Verbally state what part(s) of the body you’re referring to and point if this helps clarify your story

      • Add detail where you can even if you’re being asked a yes or no question

      • Do not speak over other participants

      • Do not chew gum, tobacco, etc.

      For more details on how you can prepare for an SSD hearing, check out our blog with more preparation tips here.

      Step 5: Seek Experienced Legal Representation

      When in doubt, seek out legal representation! Black & Jones is a trusted Rockford law firm with experience navigating even the most complex cases. In fact, our firm alone has 64 years of combined experience in SSD law

      Utilizing these tips is just a start, and it’s important to know that each case will be tried differently given their specific circumstances. For your free consultation, call 815-967-9000 or fill out the form to get started today.