SSDI hearing expectationsIf your Social Security claim is denied, you can apply for an appeal. At the hearing, a judge will ask you a series of questions. These questions help the judge decide whether your disability is severe enough to stop you from working. It is valuable to know the most common questions at a disability hearing. This way, you can prepare your answers ahead of time with the help of a lawyer. Complete, truthful answers paint a fuller picture of your condition. They are what you need. 

The judge will not ask you any trick questions. Rather, they may get specific. This allows them to assess your disability. They can gauge what, if any, work you are capable of doing. Following the disability hearing, the judge will approve or deny your appeal. 

Basic Background Questions

The types of questions you’ll be asked at a disability hearing range from basic to more detailed and specific. At first, the judge may ask about your identity and background. They may also ask about any schooling or training you’ve had. Those questions may help to identify potential employment opportunities.

  • What is your full name?
  • How old are you?
  • What is your social security number?
  • What is your mailing address?
  • What are your height and weight?
  • Where and with whom do you live? How many floors are in your home?
  • What is your formal education background?
  • Do you have any professional or vocational training?

Questions About Work History

Sometimes, the SSA may deny your SSD claim on a technicality. It may be something you missed on your application. The hearing can give you a chance to correct that error. A common example has to do with your work history. The application may give the impression that you are working and don’t need benefits. The reality might not be that way. Your lawyer can help you frame your employment history in a favorable light.

  • Are you currently working at all? For whom and doing what kind of work?
  • Have you worked at all since the start of your condition?
  • Describe your experience trying to work with your condition.
  • How long were you there? What did you do? Why did you stop?
  • When was your last successful job? What did you do? Why did you leave?
  • What has been your work history for the last 15 years? Provide dates and duties.

Questions About Your Medical Condition

The process for appealing your SSDI denial in Boston will involve seeing a judge. They may ask specific questions about your disability. The judge is looking for clarity about your medical condition and how it impacts your ability to work. In preparing for the hearing, your lawyer can help collect more medical evidence to support your claim. You can then provide factual information from medical reports and diagnostic tests as part of your answers. 

  • How long have you had this condition?
  • When were you formally diagnosed?
  • How does your condition affect your ability to work?
  • When did you start noticing symptoms? 
  • How did it progress since then?
  • Have you sought medical help?
  • Do your treatments have side effects?
  • Are you on any medication?

Questions About Physical Limits

Before attending the hearing, review your disability denial letter carefully with your lawyer. It will tell you why SSA denied your claim. It could have to do with your perceived physical ability to work and perform daily tasks. 

Remember that if you don’t state otherwise, they will assume your answers mean without pain or discomfort. If something is hard to do or it hurts, say so in your answer. You might say you can walk a couple of blocks, but you need a cane, and you have significant hip pain when you do. Clearly explain any mobility issues, discomfort, or pain you have. This can include medications and their side effects. 

  • What does your day-to-day look like?
  • Can you drive? Or take public transit?
  • How long or far can you walk?
  • How long can you stand before you have to sit down?
  • How long can you sit before you have to get up?
  • How much weight can you lift and carry frequently? Occasionally?
  • Do you have issues with balance?
  • Can you stoop, bend, or crouch?
  • Do you need to take extra bathroom breaks?
  • Describe any other physical limitations you may have.

Questions About Pain and Mental Wellbeing

Pain and mental health are often invisible. Your answers need to give the judge a clear idea of how you feel on a daily basis. How does your condition affect your ability to work? Your disability lawyer can help you prepare answers that are honest and thorough. The right answers can set you on a clear path to a successful appeal.

  • Is your memory affected?
  • Do you experience any pain? When, how often, and how intense?
  • Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • How do you manage your pain?
  • How often do you take breaks for mental or emotional reasons?
  • Do you struggle with concentration?
  • Do you have a hard time with personal and professional relationships?
  • Do you get along with coworkers and supervisors?
  • Can you get dressed in the morning by yourself?
  • Can you prepare your own meals?
  • What chores can you do? What chores can’t you do? 
  • How well do you sleep at night?

How to Prepare for Your Disability Hearing

Refrain from giving vague or flaky answers. “It’s hard to say” or “I don’t know” doesn’t give the judge any helpful information. Don’t make up fake numbers, either. Instead, talk with your lawyer about giving truthful answers when “it depends.” Not working with an SSDI lawyer is one of the most common mistakes people make. An experienced attorney can coach and prepare you for your disability hearing. That way, you won’t be caught off guard by answers the judge asks you. 

Work with your lawyer to collect all the medical evidence you need. Anticipate the questions you may be asked and prepare good answers for all of them. This takes practice. While you may not want to parrot back a rehearsed line, it pays to know what you’re going to say. Be natural, earnest, and honest. Do not over-exaggerate your symptoms. But, don’t under-represent your struggles, either. 

Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law
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