Giving testimony at your social security disability hearing, or any court proceeding, can be intimidating and scary. However, the process is not meant to deter you or intimidate you. Rather, the hearing is your opportunity to discuss your case with the judge and your attorney. It is meant to be a conversation, not an adversarial battle.
Your testimony should basically be a dialogue about what is going on in your day-to-day life. You want to tell the judge how your medical injury/condition is affecting your ability to perform work and your life at home. The entirety of your testimony should only take about 30 minutes, depending on how complex your case is. And always keep in mind that you want to be a good, non-confrontational witness for the judge. Though nothing can replace an attorney’s guidance in your social security disability case, here a few tips to remember before hearing.
Be As Descriptive As Possible
Aside from being asked simple yes and no clarification questions, avoid using one word answers. This is your opportunity to tell the judge what is really going on with you and your life. You do not want to waste your day in court. Be specific, and paint a detailed picture for the judge. When possible, quantify your answers with numbers. For example, when explaining how long it takes you to perform a specific task, tell the judge “it takes me 3 hours to perform the task,” not “it takes me a long while.”
Avoid Comparisons (To Others)
One of the biggest mistakes social security disability applicants make is that they compare themselves to other people. The truth is, the judge does not care about Joe or Cindy and what you can do compared to them. The judge is concerned with you and the unique facts and circumstances of your case, and these are the only considerations the judge may take into account when deciding your case. In fact, comparing yourself to others will only annoy the judge and waste everyone’s time.
ALWAYS Be Truthful
Probably the worst thing you can do to hurt your case is lie to the judge. This includes complete fabrications and exaggerations. If you begin lying to the judge, you may as well stop talking altogether because you will lose credibility and the judge will not believe anything you say. You should also avoid acting or faking the extent of your physical injuries. Judges can see right through this behavior and you will appear dishonest. If you do not know the answer to a question, simply say you do not know. And if you do not understand a question, politely ask for clarification.
Other things to remember before attending your social security disability hearing include arriving approximately 20 minutes early. It is always better to be early than late. And always dress appropriately for court. Opt for slacks/skirts, collared shirts/blouses over jeans and a tee shirt.
If you are a social security applicant preparing for a hearing or are considering filing for social security disability benefits, you need a knowledgeable social security disability attorney to assist you in filing your paper work and preparing you for your hearing. At Murphy & Garner, LLC we have experience preparing and representing clients in social security disability cases.