Your Georgia Social Security disability hearing is the most important event in the history of your claim for Social Security or SSI disability benefits. It is the best chance you have of winning. Therefore, you want to be as well prepared as possible.
Your medical records must be complete and up-to-date. All legal matters depend on evidence. In your claim for Social Security or SSI disability benefits your medical records are your best evidence. Your representative should review what records SSA has on file already, discuss this with you to make sure that no important records are missing, and then, send for any that are missing.
Tips for Your Testimony
Your representative should also discuss your testimony with you in detail. Some important areas to note are:
- Just answer the question. You will be understandably nervous and people often have a tendency to just want to tell their whole story at once. But, the legal system requires testimony to be developed in series of questions and answers. Answer the questions succinctly, but completely. If it is a yes or no question, then answer it that way, for example.
- If you are confused about the question, it is best to ask the judge to repeat or clarify the question. That is preferable to answering what you think the judge is asking you, which may not be accurate. For example, the judge might be asking you about hobbies you have. Make sure you understand whether the judge is asking about hobbies you are still able to do, or hobbies you once enjoyed, but are not able to do anymore, due to your illness or injury.
- Be aware of all the problems and limitations that have an impact on your ability to work. You may well have more limitations than you think. For example, you may not think it is a factor, but the side effects of your medications could be an additional impediment to being able to sustain full-time work. So, if the judge is asking you to tell him or her why it is that you can’t work, have an answer ready that includes all of the problems. You should also note that a learning disability or illiteracy is not something to be left out even though it is a life-long condition that you coped with before you developed other health problems.
- Be honest. Don’t underestimate or over-sell your disability. It is often difficult for people to see themselves realistically. People want to believe that they can still do the things they used to do or that they believe a person of their age should be doing, despite their disability and the fact they haven’t been able to do these things for years.
What to Wear
You should even choose carefully what you wear to your hearing. You want to be respectful of the proceeding. Yet, you don’t want to over-do it with fancy or expensive-looking hairstyles, clothing, jewelry, or even manicures. Also, avoid hats or t-shirts with slogans, images, or logos that might give the impression that you are living a more active lifestyle than you actually are. Some examples are deer hunting, fishing, motorcycles, or firearms.
You can bring a witness to your hearing. But, the witness should be both someone who sees you regularly and also has something new to add. The judge only has set aside about 45 minutes to an hour for your hearing and he or she may have asked a medical and/or a vocational expert to testify at your hearing, as well. Make sure that you and your witness have an understanding that the witness needs to be brutally honest about the changes they’ve observed since your disability began. You don’t want your witness to fear that you will be angry because her observations may not align with your own opinion about yourself and how you are doing.
Know the Time Frame
There may be time periods involved in your claim that are critical to address. You may have to show that your disability began before a certain date. Or, you may have recovered somewhat and your claim may be for a closed period of disability that is now past. Make sure to discuss this with your representative because your testimony and that of your witness must relate to that time period.
At the Hearing
Usually, the judge starts by asking you a series of questions, and then, allows your representative to follow up. Some of the questions may sound personal, but they are not intended to make you feel uncomfortable. The judge is just trying to get an idea of what you are still able to do since you are probably not working.
If the judge has asked a vocational expert (VE) to testify at your hearing, it is important to note that this expert is not really talking about you and he or she is not talking to you. The VE is there to talk to the judge about jobs – jobs that you have performed in the past, and other jobs that a person with your impairments and with your same age, education, and experience might still be able to perform. The VE will be reciting all kinds of figures and codes that will make no sense to you. This testimony is only for the judge and the representative. Don’t be concerned if you don’t understand it.
At the end of your Georgia Social Security disability hearing the judge may ask you if there was anything that was not covered. If the judge does not ask this, but yet, you believe something important was left out or you were not asked about it, ask the judge if you can add something before you go off the record. Your hearing is being recorded to assist the judge in writing the decision or for purposes of an appeal, if necessary.
Most of the time the judge will not announce his or her decision, but instead will issue a decision in writing and will mail it to you. This could take weeks or even months. But, when you receive your decision, call your representative to discuss it and the next steps, whether you win or lose.
If you are thinking about applying for disability benefits or if your claim has been denied, call Adams & Associates Disability Inc. at 1-888-551-1190 to schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable Social Security disability representative.