Disability attorney sitting with client

How Do I Prepare for My Social Security Disability Hearing?

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Receiving a notice that your application for Social Security Disability benefits has been denied can be, among other things, demoralizing. After putting in the work to complete your application for the critical support provided by Social Security Disability benefits, a denial can feel like a major setback. Try not to let it get you down. Many applications that are initially denied end up being approved through the appeals process set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The first stop in the appeals process is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). While it sounds intimidating, this hearing is a valuable opportunity to present your case for disability benefits in a way that convinces the ALJ that you should be entitled to receive benefits. Preparation is key to success. 

How Do I Prepare for My Social Security Disability Hearing?

Before attending your Social Security Disability hearing, review your application as well as any documents you have been sent by the SSA. While you are quite literally the living embodiment of your claim, living with your disability every day, it is helpful to review your case as it is presented in your case file. Reviewing the documents associated with your claim will also help you develop notes that you can use during the hearing itself.

Having your own notes to reference during the hearing can not only help relieve some anxiety you may be feeling, but it can help you more clearly articulate your answers to any questions asked by the ALJ. Your notes should include the answers to questions that are often asked at these hearings. This will include information regarding the mental and physical job duties you have had over the course of the past several years. It will include details regarding the limitations you experience now that you are disabled. This means referencing activities that once brought you enjoyment, but which you are no longer able to do because of your disability.

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for your hearing is to gather your most up to date medical records. Immediately after you receive your Notice of Hearing, you should start requesting your recent medical records. These are records that the SSA and the ALJ are unlikely to have and new evidence relating to your disability is one of the best things you can have to result in an approval of your claim. When you receive your updated medical records, be sure to submit copies to the ALJ prior to your hearing.

In addition to submitting updated medical records, you should also submit written statements from people who are familiar with your disability and how your disability has impacted your life. These statements may come from family members, former employers, or other parties familiar with your disability. You should also get a statement from your doctor. The letter should be detailed. It should explain your “functional limitations.” These are work duties you cannot do as a result of your disability.

Disability Attorney

The disability benefits application and appeals process can be difficult to navigate. Disability Advocates will support you through the process. We are here to do what we can to see that you are awarded these important benefits. Contact us today.

About the Author
Ms. Shvarts is the managing attorney for Disability Advocates Group. She opened Disability Advocates Group to assist individuals who became disabled and unable to work to obtain the benefits they need and deserve.  Ms. Shvarts and the rest of the team at Disability Advocates Group are dedicated to assisting individuals obtain Social Security Disability Benefits (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.