5 Strategies to Win your Social Security Disability Hearing
Though it may be hard to hear, those who told you that getting Social Security Disability benefits was difficult were understating the case. In fact, a large percentage of those who apply for these benefits are denied (45 percent of those applying for SSDI and 18 percent applying for SSI). To increase your chances of achieving a positive outcome, the most important step you can take is to engage the services of an experienced disability attorney. Studies have shown that having a lawyer with you doubles your chances of success.
Advantages a Social Security Disability Lawyer Can Provide
Having a competent disability advocate at your side gives you several important advantages. Being a professional in this field of law, she or he:
- Has in-depth knowledge of the way the Social Security Disability system works
- Is familiar with the hearing process and the personnel involved
- Knows the possible pitfalls that lead to claim denial and how to avoid them
- Knows precisely how to quickly appeal a claim denial to get better results
Most of all, a competent disability attorney has the background and know-how to use the strategy that will work best in your particular case.
Strategies to Win Your Disability Hearing
An Ounce of Prevention
One of the major benefits of having a disability attorney on call is that you will be able to receive professional guidance relative to all aspects of your hearing. Your lawyer will make certain that all timelines are met, that you wear appropriate clothing for your hearing (not formal, but modest and neat), and that you remember to be polite and cooperative, following directions and being cordial (never confrontational).
It is especially important to restrain yourself when listening to the vocational expert (VE) who may attend your hearing. That individual is charged with the task of figuring out what type of job you might be able to do in spite of your disability. You will have to resist the temptation to be defensive or to express your feeling that a suggested type of employment is too demeaning to be considered. Always take your lead from your disability attorney who will know how to phrase questions addressed to the VE in the appropriate manner.
By rehearsing with you, your lawyer will show you how to present your medical and work history in the best possible light to convince the administrative law judge (ALJ) that you not only deserve disability benefits, but require them.
Cram for the Exam by Finding Out Which Questions Are Likely to Be Asked
Don’t forget that you will be a participant at the hearing and will be asked questions designed to find out whether you are sufficiently disabled to qualify for benefits. It is essential that you know how best to answer the questions the judge will ask you. In this regard, your disability lawyer can be very helpful.
Having prepared for this scenario will make you confident and put you at ease. The less nervous you are, the more likely it is that your statements will be accepted as truthful. Your attorney will also have shown you how to answer questions about any areas in which your case is weak (e.g. your lack of medication or therapy) with reasonable explanations.
Provide Complete Medical Evidence
As you might expect, medical and/or psychiatric evidence is the basis of your claim and, as such, is the most significant aspect of your presentation. Although you are supposed to submit medical data at least 7 days before your hearing, it is possible that new X-rays have just been taken, or recent blood tests recently administered; in this case, you should bring the records with you to the hearing. It is important to be aware that medical records must be no more than 60-90 days old.
One especially important document to provide at the disability hearing is a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) form, filled out by your doctor and backed up by medical records, that states clearly what your limitations are.
The Most Important Strategy Is Teaming Up with a Social Security Disability Attorney
It is hard enough to tackle government bureaucracy when you’re in tip-top shape. Trying to do so when you are living with pain and/or dysfunction can be totally overwhelming. Be proactive -- contact an accomplished disability attorney to help you fight for the benefits you’re entitled to receive.
About The Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. After graduating from UCLA Law School, Ms. Shvarts began her career as a civil litigator at a large law firm. After several years of civil litigation, Ms. Shvarts decided to shift to a more personal type of law practice in order to help individuals who were struggling in their daily lives. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve. Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.