Your Hearing With The Judge
Your hearing with an administrative law judge will either be done in person at the local Office of Hearings Operations (OHO) located in Cleveland or Akron. An attorney from The Skolnick Weiser Law Firm, LLC, will go with you to your hearing and help you present your case to the judge.
What You Can Expect At Your Hearing
Several areas that are generally covered in the hearing include:
- Introductory questions
- Work activity
- Why you cannot work
- Description of the treatment
- Daily activities
- Functional limitations
- Problematic areas in your Social Security record
- Expectations for the future
- Vocational expert – an individual who has training in the area of jobs and job placement. This individual will testify to your past work and whether given your limitations there are other jobs that you could do in the national economy.
- Medical expert – a doctor who will testify about the medical conditions that are set forth in the medical records and in your testimony.
Hearing prep points:
- Main issue – The main issue in your case is going to focus on your functional capacity for working, i.e., your ability to work. Although there are several arguments we can make to win your case, most cases at the hearing are won by arguing that your capacity to work has been so reduced by your medical conditions that you would not be a reliable worker in even a simple, nonproduction oriented, sit-down job.
- During the hearing, we will identify the specific work type of activities that you cannot perform. For example, if you have a knee problem that prevents you from walking more than 30 minutes in any 3-hour period, this walking limitation would impact categories of jobs that require frequent walking or standing.
- When you are asked about your ability to perform various tasks – sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, stooping, climbing, etc., don’t answer with generalities. Saying “I can’t walk very far” or “I can’t lift much” doesn’t tell the judge anything. Saying “I can only walk 50 yards before I have to stop and rest,” or “it takes all my strength to carry a gallon of milk from the refrigerator to the table” does convey specific information that can be translated into a job requirement.
- In almost every disability hearing, the judge will have a vocational expert there to testify. The vocational witness is there to identify the skill level and exertional level of your past work, and to answer hypothetical questions from the judge about other jobs you may be suited for. The more specific limitations we can persuade the judge to include in that hypothetical, the better your chances.
- Your credibility is one of the main things that the judge will be deciding. Factors that enhance your credibility are a long work history, (unsuccessful) work attempts and a sense that you would much rather be working than waiting for disability benefits.
- The medical record in your case will be the most important factor in determining if you have a good case. If your record contains reference to drug-seeking behavior or malingering, you will most likely not win.
- Recognize that your lawyer cannot lead you when asking questions. Give detailed and specific answers to your lawyer’s questions.
- If you are asked about pain, you can use a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being a mild headache and 10 being a kidney stone. Don’t say that your pain is always at a 10. A better answer – “My pain is always at a 5, but three or four times a week it spikes up to an 8 or a 9 – if I overdo it physically or if I am under a lot of stress.”
- If you are going to testify that you can’t sit for more than 15 minutes because of back pain, don’t come to the hearing and sit quietly for 45 minutes. It is okay to stand up and move around during the hearing if you are uncomfortable.
Learn How We Can Assist You
Our attorneys can help you thoroughly prepare for your hearing and learn what to expect. Don’t face this process alone. Contact us for an initial consultation by calling locally at 216-861-8888 or toll free at 877-977-3476. Alternatively, contact us online.