Going through the Social Security Disability process can be a nerve-wracking experience. But being well prepared for initial hearings and appeals can relieve some of the anxiety and help people obtain a positive outcome.

The following are useful tips to keep in mind as you get ready to go before an Administrative Law Judge.

  1. Hire an experienced attorney
    Even though the Social Security Administration (SSA) doesn’t require you to have an SSD lawyer at your side, you’re better off obtaining legal counsel. In fact, approval rates in front of administrative law judges are higher when an attorney is involved. Once you’re represented by a lawyer, you also have a better chance of presenting your argument more effectively to the judge assigned to your case.
  2. Put care into your appearance and be on time
    While you shouldn’t invest in an expensive suit for the occasion, you still need to look good. This means dressing as if you’re going to an important interview. The goal is to show the judge that you respect the court and take this process seriously. Be on time or ask for a postponement. Failing to show up could jeopardize your request.
  3. Know Your Case
    You are most familiar with your medical condition, history and records. Additionally, it is helpful for you to be aware of all the medical evidence given to the judge to ensure no essential information is omitted from your disability application file. Certain injuries and diseases qualify you for disability benefits if they prevent you from working.
  4. Don’t Minimize or Exaggerate
    It’s important to be truthful about your medical condition, so when the judge asks you questions, be honest. Some people feel their case is stronger if they exaggerate at the hearing. Other applicants are afraid that if they are frank about the pain, they’ll look weak before the judge. Neither approach is recommended. The judge wants to know exactly what you’re going through and the day-to-day hurdles that keep you from doing your job. Therefore, you should provide this information without any fanfare or apology. If you don’t give all the facts, you run the risk of this judge concluding that you don’t need disability benefits and, therefore, denying your claim.
  5. Never give up on your claim
    Don’t be surprised if your Social Security Disability request is denied at the initial hearing. Most cases are turned down, so it’s important that you file an appeal through your attorney within 60 days. The case file should contain the reasons your claim was denied, enabling your attorney to set up a better argument at the appeal hearing. For instance, you might need stronger medical evidence to prove you are disabled. Work with your attorney to set an onset date to determine when your back pay should begin. That could be 17 months before you sought the disability.

Remember, working with your attorney to build the most persuasive argument for your claim is crucial to obtaining your disability benefits. Be prepared and don’t give up.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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