Being a good witness at your disability hearing is almost as important as your medical records. A good case with solid medical records can be easily lost if the client is not prepared to testify. The purpose of having a disability hearing is for the individual to explain to the judge their side of the story. Being angry or argumentative to the Judge will certainly not elicit any compassion or understanding. When preparing for your disability hearing there are a few things you should consider:
- Tell your story. This is your chance to tell the judge everything about why your condition prevents you from holding a job. Remember, Judges are people. They can certainly relate to your story, if not personally then through friends or family members. Telling a good story will help put a more favorable light on the medical records when they are being reviewed.
- Be Descriptive. Do not use one word answers. Remember, this is your time to explain yourself to the Judge. If you simply give yes or no answers to the Judge that will leave a lot to be interpreted, and generally not in your favor. Make sure to quantify your limitations. How often are you able to perform routine daily activities? Does it take you an hour to vacuum with two 10 minute breaks in between? Stay away from one word responses like yes or no. This is your time to really explain to the Judge what is going on with you. You have waited a significant period of time to get your day in court…make sure to use it.
Example: Judge asks if you have difficulty sleeping
Bad Answer: Yes.
Good Answer: Yes your honor, I have difficulty sleeping. I have trouble falling asleep. I toss and turn for about an hour before I am finally able to sleep. I also have difficulty staying asleep. I wake up about three-four times per night due to pain. I sleep approximately 5 hours total a night. When I wake up in the morning I am still tired.
- Tell the truth. Under no circumstances should you lie to the judge. If you do not know the answer to the question simply say so. Lying to the Judge will ruin your credibility and your whole case will go down the tubes.
- Know your present abilities and limitations. In the days leading up to your hearing, pay attention to your daily symptoms. Write down how often you are having pain or if you are experiencing side effects from your medications. Estimate the length and intensity of your symptoms. Also be prepared to estimate your limitations. This will help you paint a clear picture for the judge regarding your everyday life.
- Be respectful. The Judge is not the right person to take your anger out on. The judge is not responsible for the problems you have had with social security or the significant wait time for your hearing. What the judge is responsible for is making a decision on your case. Make sure to stay calm and be respectful of the judge.
Following these simple tips will make a world of difference when testifying at your disability hearing. If you do not already have an SSD attorney I would urge you to obtain one. Your attorney will go into more detail with you as to what types of questions will be asked and how you should specifically answer those questions.