Advice for your hearing, by our Chicago social security attorneys
Your Chicago Social Security disability hearing is your best opportunity to obtain benefits. More than half of claimants succeed at their hearings. Here is some advice from the hearing frontlines to improve your odds:
- Arrive early. Unless your attorney instructs you differently, show up a half hour early. Hearings start on time, so you don’t want to risk being late.
- Dress comfortably. Dress a notch up from your daily wear, unless your daily attire is ultra-casual.
- Turn off your cell phone. Your hearing deserves your undivided attention.
- Keep mum outside the hearing room. Don’t talk about your case while in the building. A Social Security employee may overhear you and unfavorably misinterpret your comment.
- The room. A hearing room is a small conference room containing a conference table, maybe an American flag or seal of the Social Security Administration, and recording equipment.
- Using the microphone. Remember that you must answer questions audibly. You cannot shake your head. Avoid “uh huh” answers; state yes or no clearly.
- People present. Seated at the conference table will be the judge, you, and your attorney. Either nearby or also at the table will be a judge’s assistant, who will operate the computer. You may bring witnesses or observers.
- Yours alone. You may not look to anyone else for your answers. Anyone you bring should not chime in.
- Remain calm. You may be upset at the long delay between your application and the hearing, angry about your initial denial, or bothered by the way the system works. Keep those feelings to yourself and remember that the judge did not cause those problems.
- Speak informally. The judge wants to know about your symptoms and how those affect you. Talk to the judge as you would an old friend who you are updating on your problems. Avoid medical terms, just as you would when talking to a friend.
- Testify truthfully. Avoid either exaggerating or minimizing your condition and its effect on your life. Be candid about your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Review this list of what not to do to avoid other mistakes.
- Tell your story. Your judge wants to know why your condition prevents you from holding a job. This is your chance to explain. Don’t be tight-lipped; provide enough facts, details, and explanations to make it obvious to the judge that you are disabled.
- Topics. You will be asked about your: work history, education, medical history, symptoms, work limitations, and daily activities. You will want to answer in detail, but without drawing conclusions. For example, here is a good answer to a question about sitting:
Judge: How long can you sit?
Claimant: If I force myself, I can sit here for perhaps a whole hour; but after this, I’ll have to go home and lie down, and I won’t be much good for the rest of the day. When I am trying to do things around the house, like pay bills, I only sit for about 20 minutes at a time and then I get up and walk around for 15 or 20 minutes before I go back to sitting. If I were on a job where I could change positions between sitting and standing or walking, the length of time that I could sit would get shorter as the day wore on. Sitting is really hard on my back. It’s better, though, if I can sit in my recliner chair with my legs up. I can sit in that chair for a long time but I find it really hard, for example, to pay bills sitting in that chair. I usually sit at the dining room table when I pay bills.
Your Chicago social security attorneys can provide more examples, and take you through other questions you are likely to be asked at your Chicago Social Security disability hearing.