There are several parts to prepare for in the lead up to a Social Security Disability hearing, and one of the things you should anticipate is questions from the judge. The idea of testifying before a judge can induce anxiety in any context, and it is all the more intimidating when you have been waiting for months to receive your benefits. This document will hopefully prepare you for what is to come, and to lessen any feelings of anxiety you might have.
To begin with, the judge will ask you personal questions, such as your full name, Social Security number, mailing address, age, date of birth, height, and weight. They will then follow up with questions about your educational background (your highest level of education), vocational training, and any types of certifications you have earned. This information will inform the judge’s decision as to whether your disability would prevent you from working in different areas of employment.
This will lead into questions about your work history, with questions like when and where did you last work, the length of your employment, why you left (or why your disability keeps you from doing the job), the amount of physical exertion required for the job (factors like sitting, standing, lifting, walking, and machinery or tool use), what other jobs you have had in the past, and whether you have applied for work since filing for Social Security Disability.
The next area of questioning will deal with the types of medical history and treatment you have received since your disability began. The judge will want to know the nature of your disability or impairment, the frequency with which it affects you, the length of time that it affects you, what limitations it causes, and what medical treatment helps alleviate your condition, if any. Additional questions in this category could be who your physician is, how long you have seen this doctor, whether you have been hospitalized and how long you were hospitalized, a list of any medications you take, how often you take them, and if you are taking them as prescribed by your doctor. You may be asked pain scale questions, as in how would you rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, if your symptoms stay the same throughout the day or if they worsen.
From there the judge may ask about your day-to-day activities to get a better understanding of your capabilities and limitations. These questions may cover your physical abilities, like if you are able to lift, carry, sit and stand without difficulty, walk, climb stairs, kneel, stoop, or drive a vehicle. They may also ask about your domestic quality of life, as in can you cook your own meals, make your bed, do the dishes, laundry, go shopping, go to church, if you have any difficulties with getting dressed, and if you have anyone provide assistance with these activities. Other questions may include if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs.
With all these questions it is important to answer them in an honest and straightforward manner. Stay on topic and avoid rambling about off-topic issues, do not feel embarrassed or resentful of the judge’s questions, be ready to explain any holes or discrepancies that may be in your answers or the court’s records, and most importantly be specific about your symptoms, treatment plans, and physical or cognitive limitations. There is no need to exaggerate your experience since the records you have provided prior to the hearing will already provide an outline of your health status. This may seem redundant, having to answer questions based on material you have already provided, but honesty is the way to best confirm what is on record. An experienced Social Security Lawyer can help prepare you for this hearing and the questions beforehand too.