A Social Security disability hearing can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially for those unfamiliar with the process. Depending on the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), a hearing can be contentious and adversarial or relatively laid-back and easygoing.  No matter the judge, your chances of success will definitely increase if you avoid several of these common issues at your hearing.

It is important that you don’t argue your case with the ALJ. Leave arguing your case to your lawyer. Your job is to testify to facts, describe your symptoms, give estimates of your limitations, outline your daily activities, and provide lots of examples of your problems. Further, you should avoid attempting to draw conclusions for the judge.  Let the judge draw his or her own conclusions.  Don’t say things such as, “If I could work, I would be working.” Or “I want to work.”  There are many people with extreme disabilities who work. However, it is never the issue in a social security disability case that there are others who work.  It is also not relevant that there may be people less disabled than you who receive disability benefits. That is why you should never compare yourself to others. It is unhelpful to say things such as “I know people less disabled than me who get disability benefits” or “I know a guy who has nothing wrong with him, but he gets disability benefits.” None of these comparisons helps your case

          Avoid trying to demonstrate what a “good” person you are. Benefits are not awarded to people based on their virtue.  They are awarded to the disabled. Don’t bring up extraneous matters or tell stories to demonstrate your honesty or virtue, thinking that this will influence the ALJ. For similar reasons, it does not work to play on the judge’s sympathy or be dramatic. The ALJ has heard and seen it all.  Not only won’t it work, but it could backfire.   You are supposed to tell the truth at your hearing.  If you are putting on a show for the judge, that is the same thing as not telling the truth.

Finally, try to avoid giving irrelevant testimony at the hearing.  Social security regulations have a list of irrelevant areas of testimony — areas that the judge can’t and won’t consider in deciding your case.  Things such as the fact that you are unable to get work, lack of work in your local area or the fact that you would not actually be hired for a job is irrelevant. Similarly, any technological changes in the industry (such as increase reliance on computers) in which you have worked are irrelevant. Also, it does not matter that a particular job doesn’t pay well enough to support your family or it doesn’t provide health insurance or other benefits.

By avoiding these common issues at your Social Security hearing, you will give yourself the best chance at a “favorable” decision on your claim and begin to receive the benefits you deserve.

 Ron Fladhammer has over 20 years of experience representing individuals who have been denied Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits. Our office hosts one of the only video hearing location sites in the state of Illinois, so there is no need to travel to any other location to have your hearing held. Our success rate is outstanding, and if your case is not approved, there are no attorney fees.

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