Orlando Social Security Disability Hearing Help
by Rick Gach, Appointed Representative
You’ve waited for months, maybe even years for the Social Security Administration to schedule your Disability Hearing. If you’re like most claimants, you’ve felt like you’ve been given the “run-around” and now finally your disability is scheduled. Your future is up to one person- the Administrative Law Judge.
The Administrative Law Judge
The administrative law judge assigned to your case will decide whether you are disabled. Most judges are fair and will treat you with the respect you deserve. Each judge is different. Some judges want to hear very specific information from you and and will ask you multiple questions. Other judges will expect you to present your case to them yourself. Your answers to these questions along with the documentation in your file will be used to determine if you are disabled. A representative can help you by tailoring specific questions based on past experience with your judge. Information about specific judges and their respective approval percentages can be found at:
Who Will be at Your Disability Hearing?
Generally, the only people present at your disability hearing, will be you, your representative, the judge, a vocational expert, and the person helping the judge called a hearing monitor. Sometimes the judge will ask a medical doctor to testify about medical issues in your case. Very rarely will anyone else need or be permitted in the hearing room. In rare cases, it will be helpful to have a family member testify at your hearing. A representative can prepare you for your testimony and help you understand the role of everyone present at your hearing.
Evidence Considered at Your Disability Hearing
You are responsible for providing all evidence that you feel will help the judge rule in your favor. Medical records, statements from your doctor, and any other documents need to be filed with the hearing office. It is important to have all documents filed with the judge at least 5 business days before your disability hearing. If you cannot provide documents to the judge within 5 days of the disability hearing, you are required to notify the judge in writing about any evidence that you want considered. Failure to provide or notify the judge about the documentation to support your claim could prevent the judge from considering important evidence and lead to a denial of your case.
Your Testimony at the Disability Hearing
The judge will ask you to take an oath to tell the truth. After you are sworn in, the judge will ask you background questions. These questions include your date of birth, age, education level, marital status, whether you have children, a drivers license, and other important background information. The judge will then ask you questions about work that you have done in the past 15 years. The judge needs to understand your job in order to determine if you can still do past work. Did you sit, stand, walk, lift, and did you complete reports or hire/fire employees. These questions will help the vocational expert classify your work into exertion levels (heavy, medium, light, sedentary) and skill levels (unskilled, semi-skilled, skilled). The judge will then ask questions about your medical conditions. In other words, the judge wants to know what prevents you from working. You’ll need to describe your symptoms, the treatment you received by your doctors, what makes it better, and what activities make your condition worse. Finally, the judge will ask very specific questions about your physical and mental limitations and how your limitations affect your ability to perform daily activities and work activities. These are the most important questions and how you answer them may very determine whether your case gets approved or denied.
The Vocational Expert’s Testimony
The vocational expert will then testify whether your work was heavy, medium, light, or sedentary. Your past work will be classified as unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled based on information from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The vocational expert will provide the DOT code, the exertion level, and skill level for each job that you performed in the past 15 years. The judge will then ask the vocational expert some hypothetical questions to determine how certain limitations interfere with the ability to perform your past work and whether other jobs could be performed based on the hypothetical. It is extremely important to get the vocational expert to testify that past relevant work and other work cannot be performed within a hypothetical question. A representative can assist you by asking the vocational expert important questions about your transferable skills along with your physical and mental limitations.
The Theory of Your Case
How your specific limitations prevent you from performing your past relevant work or other work and what criteria is needed for the judge to approve your case is the “theory of the case.” Do your medical impairments meet one of Social Security’s Listings of Impairments or can you be found disabled based on a Grid Rule? Do any of Social Security’s “Rulings” apply to the facts in your case? A representative can help you prepare a theory of disability to present to the judge and make arguments on your behalf.
Rarely will the judge tell you the decision at the hearing. You will receive a written decision in the mail, usually within 1-2 months after your hearing.
If you would like additional information about the hearing process or if you need assistance at your hearing, please call for a free consultation. Our phone number is 407-738-3718.