person with disability talking to lawyer

What to Say (and Not Say) at Your Disability Hearing

By Michelle Shvarts
Principal Attorney

Although it often comes as a big disappointment, initial Social Security disability claims are commonly denied. Fortunately, there is greater success when appealing denied claims. After your claim is denied, you will be able to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Your day in court can be a great opportunity to get your case across more clearly than it may have been presented in your initial claim paperwork that was submitted. It is, however, a good idea to prepare yourself for your hearing as it is important and lack of preparation can add to already growing anxiety. Furthermore, there are certain things you should be sure to say, and not to say, at your disability hearing.

What to Say (and Not Say) at Your Disability Hearing

While nerves and an eagerness to get things over with can make people scattered and lead them to overshare information, it is important to restrain yourself at these hearings. Answer the questions that are asked and tailor your answer so that it directly addresses the question at hand. The sharing of unsolicited information is more likely to do your claim more harm than good. In particular, oversharing things such as any prior claims you have made that have been rejected or any part of a criminal history may be damaging. Any struggles a claimant may have with drugs or alcohol may also prove problematic. Keep your answers simple and direct.

It also does not serve you to exaggerate the nature of your disability or the subsequent symptoms you experience. When you exaggerate your symptoms, the ALJ is likely to view this as tantamount to lying. This will not help your claim, to say the least. Be honest about your disability and how it impacts your life. You do not have to be immobile and bedridden to receive disability. That is not the standard for qualifying for disability benefits. 

Just as exaggerating your symptoms can be problematic, so too can underplaying your symptoms. Many people might try to take the “stiff upper lip” approach to disability symptoms and underplay the symptoms they are suffering from. This can be due to pride, not wanting to complain, or something else, but it will not serve you well for purposes of qualifying for Social Security benefits. It is time to be honest and upfront about what you are really going for. Be forthcoming about your disability and how it has come to impact your everyday life and prevent you from working.

Additionally, beware of making excuses for not having or being able to retain a job (other than how your disability has impacted this ability). Saying things like you can’t find work, you can’t get to work because of transportation issues, and other things will not sit well with an ALJ. It is not about these things, that an ALJ will think could be easily overcome. Disability benefits are about not being able to work due only to your disabling condition.

Los Angeles Disability Attorney

The knowledgeable team at Disability Advocates will help prepare you for your disability hearing and any subsequent step you will need to prepare for in the appeals process. 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.