What will my Social Security Judge ask me at my Disability Hearing?

Q & A with 25+ year Social Security Disability Attorney Andrew Kinney


Q:  What will my Social Security judge ask me at my Disability hearing?

A:  While each Social Security hearing is different, there are two main kinds of questions your Social Security Disability judge may ask you:  Questions about your physical limitations and questions about your mental limitations.  Questions about your physical limitations can include:

  • What physical problems limit your ability to work?
  • What chores do you do at home? How do you do them?
  • Have any of your doctors asked you to do exercises? If yes, do you do them?
  • How long can you stand at a time before you need to sit? Why?
  • How long can you sit before you need to stand? Why?
  • How long can you walk in blocks before you need to stop? Why?
  • How much can you lift at a time?
  • Do you drive? How far?
  • Do you shop for groceries? Do you go alone?

Questions about your mental limitations can include:

  • What mental problems limit your ability to work? Why?
  • Do you see a psychiatrist or psychologist for your mental health? If yes, who?
  • What medications do you take for your mental health? Do they have side effects?
  • What mental health symptoms do you have despite taking medications?
  • How well do you get along with other people? Who do you keep in contact with?
  • Can you care for your basic needs?

Q:  How should I prepare for these kinds of questions at my Social Security hearing?

A:  While it is important to know what kinds of questions you will be asked at your hearing, I recommend that my clients simply pay attention to the judge’s questions and answer them directly and simply.  Do not write out answers ahead and try to read the answers.  Do not ask your attorney in the hearing about how to answer the judge’s questions.  Do not be defensive about your answers.  Also, think of examples of limitations you have day-to-day that will help the judge picture your limitations.  For instance, when asked about how well you get along with people, you may answer the question, and then add how often you may need to be alone in your room, and then comment on a specific time this recently happened.  Your attorney should be ready to ask you for examples of how your physical or mental issues have actually impacted your life.

Q:  How should my Social Security attorney prepare me for the questions at my hearing?

A:  Every Social Security hearing is different depending on unique combinations of medical problems.  Your attorney should go through your medical records and ask you about any discrepancies between what you and your doctors think is wrong.  This way, you can think through what the judge may need to understand about your medical issues and treatment.  Also, your attorney may need to ask you about how often you have your symptoms and how long they last.  For example, if you have migraines or seizures, the judge at your Social Security hearing will need to know how often your experience these issues and how long each episode may last.  Finally, your attorney should help remind you of the basic timeline of events in your medical record, such as injuries or surgeries.  This will help you answer questions about how you have felt over time leading to your hearing.

Q:  How do my answers at my Social Security hearing help the Social Security judge?

A:  After speaking with you at your hearing, your Social Security judge will ultimately decide whether your physical and mental limitations would allow you to return to your past kind of work or other work full-time.  Based on your age and medical problems, your attorney at your Social Security hearing can explain to you what factors may allow you to be approved for Social Security disability benefit.

Written by Andrew Kinney

Andrew Kinney is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Marquette Law School. He is in his 25th year of practice in Social Security Disability law. He speaks nationally on Social Security Disability practice, founded the Minnesota State Bar "Social Security Disability Section," and is an editor of the Social Security Pratice Guide, a five-volume legal guide published by LexisNexis.

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