Impactful Testimony is Key to a Successful SSDI Appeal Hearing

Woman pointing at a piece of paper with a pen

Before your Social Security disability hearing, it’s important that you work with your Social Security disability appeal lawyer to prepare for your testimony. 

When you get to the stage of having a hearing for your Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you’ve been fighting for benefits for a long time. Sometimes it takes years to get to the point of actually sitting down before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to talk about your case. That’s one reason why your testimony is so critical--you’ve worked for a long time to secure your benefits. It’s important to make sure that the ALJ understands and hears all aspects of your case in order to render a fair and timely judgement for you. 

What will happen in a SSDI Hearing?

The hearing consists of three parts: the legal formalities, the client’s statement, and vocational expert testimony. 

The legal formalities portion of your hearing consists of your attorney’s opening statement and other legal issues deemed necessary by the court. Think of it as administrative housekeeping, tedious but necessary.

During client testimony, the judge for your case and your attorney will ask questions regarding your personal limitations regarding work. This is your opportunity to discuss why you’re there, and how your disability prevents you from working and functioning normally on a day-to-day basis. 

Vocational expert testimony is the crucial segment of the hearing in which the vocational expert reviews and classifies your past 15 years of work history. The judge will ask this expert to consider various scenarios as a way of evaluating a person’s present and future ability to work. Your attorney, if necessary, can cross-examine the vocational expert’s answers about their client’s work history, and work abilities. 

What are the Most Important Aspects of My Testimony?

At your hearing, you will be the only person allowed to give testimony besides the vocational expert. Speaking on your own behalf for the first time in front of an AJL will be your opportunity to bring all the paperwork to life, and to show the judge--with medical evidence--why you should receive the benefits you seek. You can explain the details of your injuries or illness and elaborate on the information in your medical records.

This can be nerve racking. It’s important to work with your legal team to be best prepared for questions the judge may have, and to learn how to articulate the details of your case for the best possible outcome.

Before your hearing, you should think about these things:

  • How do your medical conditions and symptoms affect your ability to work?
  • What specific limitations keep you from working?
  • How do your limitations affect you on a daily basis, and what's changed since before your disability prevented you from working?
  • How have side effects from your medication(s) kept you from performing at optimal capacity? 

For many, there is so much time between becoming disabled and your hearing that it’s easy to forget how much you’ve adapted to the changes in your life. Keep a log of changes in your daily abilities, and keep doctors informed about these changes, and your adaptations. After all, your doctor only knows what you tell them. If they ask how your condition has changed and you reply, “I’m fine,” your medical records will reflect that. 

When giving your testimony, it’s important that your medical records reflect your condition, adaptations, and limitations. 

What Happens After My Hearing?

Your hearing will lead to one of two outcomes: either you will win your benefits, or you will need to seek the next level of appeal within 60 days of the hearing decision.

The next level of appeal following a hearing is to request a review of your hearing by the Appeals Council in Falls Church, Virginia. For this stage of appeal, you submit your request in writing. The Council will make one of three decisions:

  1. Deny your right to a review (most cases are denied at this level).
  2. Reverse the decision and award you benefits.
  3. Assign you another ALJ for a new hearing.

You must file for a review of your hearing. A review by the Appeals Council does not require its own hearing and is essentially a procedural review of how the ALJ handled your case. You will need to present compelling evidence that the outcome of your hearing was in error.

If, like many, your request for a review is denied, your final option for appeal is to file a civil action in federal court. Currently, each district court is following its own set of health safety guidelines for COVID-19 in conjunction with state mandates.

Who Are We? 

We’re Affleck and Gordon, a firm dedicated to assisting disabled and injured people in Georgia. Tens of thousands of our clients receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with our team on their side. The only areas of law we practice are disability and injury related. By specializing in this area, we can better serve our clients with expertise and attention to detail. We want to help you and your family earn the benefits that can improve your quality of life and take care of basic needs every day. We’ve been fighting for the rights of the disabled and have assisted more than 25,000 people over our 45 years in practice, and we can help you too.

Our commitment to our clients sets us apart from others who do not specialize solely in winning SSI and SSDI for you. Affleck & Gordon believes that you deserve an attorney who is professional and pleasant to work with, but who also cares about your case and is committed to representing you aggressively and zealously, within the bounds of the law.

Let us help you today. 

If your Supplemental Security Disability Insurance claim has been denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for over 45 years. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us (404) 990-3945.

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