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What Not to Say in a Disability Interview

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

During your Social Security disability application process, you may very well have to go through a disability interview. This is likely to happen at one of the levels of appeal offered during the process. In particular, you will be interviewed by an administrative law judge (ALJ) at a hearing concerning your application for Social Security benefits. These hearings can be intimidating and the pressure can feel palpable. It is important to remain as calm and center as possible. Preparing for the hearing can be a great way to manage any anxiety you may be feeling about it. One way to prepare is to review what you need to convey to the ALJ at the hearing about your disabling condition and the impact it has had on your life and ability to retain work. It is also important, however, during the interview preparation time, to consider what you should avoid saying. We’ll take a look at some of the main things you should avoid saying in a disability interview. Reviewing these things can help increase your chances of a successful appeal on your disability application.

What Not to Say in a Disability Interview

Your hearing before an ALJ is likely to last between 30 minutes to an hour. In this time frame, you have a valuable opportunity to present your case in person and really address the critical components of your application for Social Security disability benefits. To maximize this opportunity, pay close attention to what you say, and don’t say, at the hearing. Be mindful of your phrasing and remember to avoid talking about things that could jeopardize your application for benefits.

For instance, lamenting your inability to find work because no one will hire you should be avoided. Social Security disability benefits are for those who cannot retain gainful employment, not for those having difficulty finding work in a tough job market. If you make it seem that you would be able to retain work if someone would hire you, then you are doing a major disservice to your situation and your disability application. These are benefits for those unable to maintain consistent employment due to a disabling condition, not for those have difficulty finding a job.

There are also topics which you should avoid discussing, but should not, of course, lie about if asked directly about by the ALD. For instance, there is no need to volunteer information about any criminal history you may have or past drug abuse issues you may have experienced. If the ALJ asks you pointed questions about these things directly, answer honestly. There is no need, however, to volunteer such information as it can needlessly complicate the ALJ’s perception of you and your case.

Avoid exaggeration and inflated claims about the pain and severity of your situation. Dramatics will only undermine you as a credible applicant as well as the validity of your application and the claims contained therein. Claiming that you are in unbearable pain every minute of every day is not likely to help your application for disability benefits. Focusing, however, on the concrete limits your disability puts on your ability to go about normal, everyday life is likely to serve your purposes more effectively.

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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.