What Questions Does The Judge Ask At The Social Security Hearing?

Chances are that if you are reading this, you currently are waiting for your hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to be scheduled or your hearing was recently scheduled. You've applied for Social Security Disability (SSD) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and have been denied at least once or possibly twice (if your state has the Reconsideration stage).

In general Social Security hearings are pretty informal, nothing like you're accustomed to seeing on Court TV or the news. Typically, the only people in the hearing room are the judge, a court reporter who types what is being said, the claimant and if you are represented, your representative. It's also common for the Administrative Law Judge to request that a vocational expert and/or a medical expert testify at the hearing.

The main purpose of the hearing is for the claimant to testify. The majority of the time spent in the hearing room is spent with the judge asking the claimant questions and if you are represented by someone, having your representative ask you questions to inform the judge of important details.

Typically the judge will ask questions in order to better understand your case and obtain the required information to determine if you meet Social Security's definition of disability.

For the most part the the questions you are asked by the judge will fall into four categories:

Background Information
The judge will ask you questions about your education, who you live with and where you live. Basically, the simple questions that you shouldn't generally have to think twice about.

Work History
You will be asked about your work history from fifteen years prior to your alleged onset date up to the last job you held. You should be able to briefly explain where you worked, what you did on a daily basis, be able to explain what you were responsible for doing, whether the job was a physical job, whether you spent most of the day sitting down/standing up, whether you interacted with customers or the general public and what if anything you were responsible for lifting. If you have any earnings since your alleged onset date you may be asked to explain what this money is for.

Medical Condition(s)
Obviously you will be asked many questions about your disabilities and how they affect you on a daily basis. You will be asked what doctors you have seen, how often you visit the doctor, what medications you've been prescribed, what body parts are affected, how often you are in pain, how often you feel the side effects of your disability, what causes your pain or symptoms to get better or worse.  You may be asked if the medication helps your problems, if the medication has side effects or if you have ever been hospitalized. You should also be prepared to explain any gap in medical treatment (for instance if you no longer had medical coverage).

Be prepared for the one question that I believe every single judge I've ever appeared in front of has asked -- "In your opinion, what prevents you from working?"

Daily Activities 
This may be the most important portion of the hearing because it gives the judge an idea about into how you are affected on a daily basis by your disabilities. It gives them insight into what your limitations are. It's here where the judge will typically be able to determine whether he/she thinks you are a credible person or whether he/she believes you are exaggerating.

It's important to make sure the judge understands your limitations and how your disability prevents you from doing daily activities. But, at the same time, you do not want to lie or exaggerate. The judges who appear at Social Security disability cases hear hundreds of disability cases each year and literally thousands of cases in their lifetime. They can usually tell if someone is lying to them or if the person testifying in front of them is exaggerating their limitations.

The judge will ask questions about what your typical day consists of, what you do from when you wake up in the morning until when you go to bed at night, what chores you are able to do, whether you can drive, whether you can go out by yourself, whether you can cook/shop/do laundry. 

If you are preparing for your Social Security Disability hearing then you may want to read my blog post "What Happens At The Social Security Disability Hearing?" and "common Social Security disability mistakes that are easily fixed."

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