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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:

  1. Completely listen to the question
  2. Stop and think
  3. 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!

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Brandon was my first choice for an attorney because he is part of the community and you see him at the local store or PTA meetings and he always has time for you and answer your concerns. Ronica Phifer
The Sellers Law Firm represented me in my social security case, and later in my Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I have been very happy with all that you have done for me, and I refer people to you all the time. Thanks for all that you have done for me and my family. Angie Langford
I would like to start out by saying Brandon sellers is more than a lawyer that has helped my family out in numerous occasions but he's also a great friend to our family. Whenever he can't find a resolution for the problem he always recommends somebody that can. I've known him for years grew up together always been really good friends. I like to say in closing I'm really glad I know him I'm glad he's been able to help us when we've needed him. Thanks for everything you've done. Timothy Palmer
The sellers law firm is the best in Alabama they are friendly and very professional from the attorneys to the people in the office. They where very helpful throughout the whole process and even after it was over. So if you are in need for a bankruptcy firm give Brandon sellers a call you won't be disappointed Thank you Again Brian Floyd
I highly recommend Sellers Law Firm, they are fantastic and care about their clients. They walk you through step by step and advise you of your options. Sheila Wright