Questions a Judge May Ask a Disabled Pennsylvania Resident Applying for Social Security Benefits
Administrative Law Judges conduct Social Security hearings in order to determine whether applicants are eligible for Social Security Disability (SSD) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Often, claimants are denied benefits once, or potentially two times. While the hearings are informal, they can include various professionals, including an attorney, a vocational expert, a medical expert, and a court reporter.
The purpose of a hearing is for the claimant to testify regarding their need for benefits. They must show that they are disabled, as defined by law.
Typically, the judge asks questions of the claimant in order to understand the case. When an individual is represented by an attorney, the attorney may ask questions that elicit a response providing the judge with important details. A representative, such as an experienced disability lawyer, can help provide complete and helpful answers at a disability hearing.
Questions typically asked by an administrative judge at a disability hearing often fall into the following categories:
Individual Background and Daily Life
An administrative law judge may ask disability claimants questions concerning their education, housing, and family members. Claimants may be asked to describe their daily life and whether they enjoyed an active lifestyle before suffering their alleged disability. Chronic pain may interfere with an ability to even perform sedentary activities, and this can help a judge understand how it will affect an ability to perform in a work setting.
Providing the judge with an idea of how a disability affects daily tasks is important. Individuals seeking benefits may be asked to provide information concerning their need for regular assistance for daily tasks, such as laundry, shopping, and paying bills. Limitations should be specific and clear, since a judge will assess the claimant’s credibility.
A claimant is likely to be asked to provide a detailed account of their work history for 15 years before the alleged onset of a disability. Explaining previous job duties and responsibilities, particularly for physically demanding jobs, can be helpful to a successful case. Claimants may be asked simple questions, such as whether they spent the majority of the day sitting or standing and whether they interacted with the general public or customers.
Vocational experts may discuss information that is considered personal at a disability hearing. In some situations, claimants may feel embarrassed by their symptoms, particularly if they suffer from a mental illness. It can be helpful to understand that the role of the administrative law judge is to decide whether a claimant has met the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. Accurately providing information helps the judge fairly determine a claim.
Physical Disability and Medical Condition
At a hearing, the judge will want to determine the impact of the disability upon the ability to work. Claimants may be asked for a detailed list of their medical doctors and their number of visits, as well as medications they have been prescribed. The judge will want to know about specific symptoms and whether medications are helping. If there are side effects from medications, the judge will want to understand the effects of these.
A judge may want to understand whether symptoms are consistent with the symptoms of the medical condition. Again, this helps support credibility. Any gaps in medical history will need to be explained, since the judge may ask why treatment was not sought during these periods. Perhaps the claimant did not have insurance at this time, or their symptoms improved. On a related note, medical records can contain bad facts, such as a reliance on pain medication. This kind of information is also important to acknowledge, and a skilled attorney can help you do so in a way that does not necessarily affect the success of a claim. Again, the purpose of inquiring about medical conditions is for the judge to understand the effect of an alleged disability upon a claimant’s ability to work.
At Needle Law, our Social Security attorneys have the experience and understanding of disability laws to help you in your claim for benefits. We can help you understand your legal rights and set forth a strong case from filing a claim to appealing a decision. If you or a family member needs assistance with a claim, contact our office today at (570) 344-1266 to schedule a complimentary consultation with a skilled Pennsylvania attorney.