Avoiding the Pitfalls of a Social Security Hearing
Traps, pitfalls, and “gotchas”- our Montgomery Social Security lawyers have seen way too many for the last four decades. Most of the time these pitfalls aren't caused by the Social Security applicant giving the wrong answer to a question, but by the applicant giving an incomplete answer to the question. We tell each client the following:
- Completely listen to the question
- Stop and think
- Answer the question completely, but don't over answer and don't under answer. Just answer what is being asked by your attorney or by the Social Security judge.
During most hearings an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who is presiding over the hearing will ask you some questions about the things that you are physically capable of doing. Some judges will ask only one or two questions and then will ask your attorney to do all the follow-up questions. Other judges will conduct almost the entire hearing and then ask your attorney if he has any follow up questions for the applicant. Each judge has their own method of conducting the hearing; however, every judge will ask some standard questions. Questions such as how long can you stand? How far can you walk? What do you do during your typical day? Can you clean the house? Do you wash dishes? Are you able to sweep the floor? Do you go grocery shopping by yourself? The Administrative Law Judge is not intentionally trying to trap you in a question, but rather he or she is trying to determine what you can do from a physical standpoint. This is referred to as a “residual functional capacity.” The ALJ is trying to determine what you're capable of doing at work and what are you capable of doing in your daily living.
So many people are afraid that if they completely answer the question then the ALJ will think that they're lazy. So, when the judge asks the applicant the question, “can you sweep the floor,” and the applicant says, “yes I can do that.” Many applicants answer yes out of fear of the ALJ thinking that they are either faking it or just being a lazy person; however, the applicant may be able to sweep the floor, but it may take him an hour to sweep it because every 5 minutes they have to take a break to sit down because of the pain. The applicant must be very specific in how he answers the questions that an ALJ or the attorney asks! Our Montgomery Social Security attorneys always advise our clients to tell the truth and don't exaggerate your condition. Also don't minimize your symptoms; just be completely honest.
Before the hearing you need to think about some of the questions that will be asked and try to answer with accurate and detailed answers. We meet with each client to do a pre-hearing interview so that we can go over some of the expected questions. Many judges will be asking you questions that require exact numbers.
Many times applicants may answer with “I don't know; I haven't timed it.” However, we ask our clients to actually think about the question and try to answer it honestly and truthfully. If you're asked how long can you stand, this means how long can you stand before you are in pain. People may be able to stand a long time, but they stand there while in severe pain. We want our clients to be able to answer the questions with as much certainty and honesty as possible.
At The Sellers Law Firm, our Montgomery Social Security lawyers are here to help you win your disability benefits. We have offices in Montgomery, Selma, Greenville, and Troy. Please call us at 334-LAWYERS (529-9377) and meet the team. All consultations are always free! You may also reach us by using the “text us” link or Contact Form on our website. Remember that doing nothing, changes nothing so act today!