archives

social security judge

This category contains 3 posts

Preparing for Your Social Security Disability Hearing

You have been waiting for many months for your chance to have a Social Security judge decide your claim. You’ve been denied twice and appealed each determination. Up to this point, you really haven’t had an opportunity to explain to a real, live human being why you are unable to work. Finally, the day arrives when you have your chance to tell your story to a judge.

If you have an experienced attorney representing you, you should be very well prepared for your hearing. Your attorney will have provided Social Security with all of the relevant medical records to support your disability claim. In addition, your attorney may have obtained reports or forms from your treating providers which address specific disabling conditions or your ability to perform specific physical activities.

An experienced attorney will meet with you before the hearing to explain the process and what you can expect at the hearing. Every Social Security judge conducts hearings in a slightly different fashion, so it’s important that you are prepared for a variety of possible hearing procedures. Some judges like to ask all the questions and then allow your attorney to follow up with anything additional. Other judges may turn the hearing over to your attorney right from the outset and have your attorney ask all of the questions.

There may be a medical expert, a vocational expert, or both at the hearing. It will be your attorney’s job to question these experts as necessary following their testimony. Either of these experts may also ask you a few questions to clarify your testimony or to provide them with additional background information about you and your claim.

At our office, we typically meet with you in advance of the hearing and provide you with a general outline of the questions you can expect to be asked either by the judge or by me. You will also be provided with a summary of what is contained in the medical records so that your recollection of your medical care and treatment is fresh for your testimony.

Preparation is important because it is comforting to understand the process of the hearing and what type of questions you will be asked. It’s just as important to understand the types of things you will not be asked or things that the judge is not interested in. A hearing typically lasts only an hour or less, so we don’t want to waste the judge’s time with irrelevant or repetitive information. On the other hand, we certainly want to make sure that we provide the judge with all of the important information he or she needs to decide your claim favorably.

Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, make sure to testify truthfully and honestly. Social Security judges have heard thousands of people testify about pain and disabling conditions. If the judge suspects that you are exaggerating your symptoms or if you testify about medical problems which do not appear in your medical records, you lose all credibility and will probably lose your claim.

If you have questions about a Social Security disability claim, please feel free to contact Bradt Law Offices for your absolutely free consultation. We have been handling Social Security disability claims all across northern Minnesota for 30 years and are always happy to discuss your case at any stage of the claim process. We can discuss your claim over the phone or arrange for a meeting in our office.

If you have other questions about Social Security disability claims, you can visit our website where we have a list of common questions and answers, including:

1. What are Social Security disability benefits?
2. How much will I receive if Social Security decides I’m disabled?
3. How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
4. What do I do if my claim is denied?
5. When should I hire a lawyer to represent me?
6. How do I pay a lawyer in a Social Security disability case?

Thank you for visiting our blog.

Advertisements

Northern Minnesota Social Security Disability Hearings Now Held by Video Conference

If you live in northern Minnesota and have recently been notified of a hearing on your Social Security disability claim, there’s a good chance that it will be held by Video Teleconferencing (VTC). As a result, you may have the following questions:

-What is video teleconferencing?

–Can I request an “in person” hearing, instead of a video conference hearing?

-Are there disadvantages to having a video conference Social Security disability hearing?

Within the past year or so, the Social Security Administration has begun scheduling video conference hearings for northern Minnesota claims. Prior to that, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from the Minneapolis office would travel to Duluth or Hibbing and hold hearings where claimants and their representatives could appear live and in person. Apparently, the backlog in northern Minnesota became so great, that the Social Security Administration decided to begin using videoconference hearings with judges from outside the Minnesota area. In our experience, this change seems to have sped up the process of getting to a hearing. In the past, it was not unusual to wait as long as two years for a hearing after filing an initial application for disability benefits.

The videoconference hearings that I have attended with my clients during the past year or so have all involved judges from the St. Louis, Missouri Social Security Administration office.

A videoconference hearing is really no different than a live hearing, except that the judge is appearing on a television screen from his or her office hundreds of miles away. My clients and I typically travel to the federal courthouse in Duluth for the hearings. Generally, a vocational expert (VE) is present at the hearing in Duluth, although sometimes they appear by telephone conference. (Please see this previous post for more information about vocational experts.)

Procedurally, the hearings are identical to the way they would be held if the judge was present. There is a  video screen in the hearing room and the judge can see you and you can see the judge. Any witnesses who will testify are sworn in, and the hearing proceeds in the normal fashion. (See this previous post for a description of what happens at a Social Security disability hearing).  After a while, you hardly notice the fact that the judge is not in the same room with you.

Do you have the option of declining a videoconference and requesting an in person hearing?

Yes. The rules specifically provide that you have that option and the Notice of Hearing will also advise you of that right. If you prefer not to appear at your hearing by video teleconference, you must notify the Social Security hearing office within 5 days after you receive your Hearing Notice. The Hearing Notice also warns you that requesting an in person hearing “might delay your hearing to a date later than the current hearing date”.

Are there disadvantages to having a video conference Social Security disability hearing?

I have not noticed or observed any disadvantages to videoconference hearings and none of my clients have had any problems with the process. Anytime you can get to a disability hearing faster and with fewer delays, I consider that to be an advantage.

Summary

Just like the rest of the world, the Social Security Administration seems to be using more and more of the new technology that is available. After watching many of my clients over the past several years suffer both physically and financially, while waiting months and months for a hearing, I think the new videoconferencing procedure has been a welcome development.

If you have any questions about a Social Security disability claim or if you need an experienced attorney to represent you, please feel free to contact us at any time with questions or to schedule your absolutely free initial consultation. Attorney Steve Bradt has been successfully representing Social Security disability claimants all across northern Minnesota for nearly 30 years. We are happy to assist you in any way that we can with your claim.

Thank you for visiting our blog.

Some Tips to Help You Win Your Social Security Disability Claim

Attorney Steve Bradt, of  Bradt Law Offices, has been successfully handling Social Security disability claims for nearly 30 years. While every case is different and not every case can be won, there are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of winning your claim. This is the advice that we give to our clients early in every case:

Visit Your Doctor

One of the most important factors considered by Social Security in your claim will be the medical evidence. You have to understand that every person, who appears before every Social Security judge, in every case, tells the judge “I can’t work because I am disabled”. Obviously, Social Security cannot approve every single claim that is filed. Therefore, they will look very carefully at the medical evidence to see if it establishes the disability that you are claiming. If you haven’t been to see a doctor about a particular condition or claimed disability, there won’t be any evidence of that disability. While this seems like common sense, we are surprised every day at the number of people we speak with who claim to be disabled but haven’t sought medical treatment or haven’t been to a doctor in several months or years.

If you have ongoing medical problems which you feel are disabling, you should visit a doctor regularly for treatment. This helps Social Security see that you have a condition which has been diagnosed and treated and is consistent with the disability you might be claiming.

Follow the Treatment Recommendations of Your Medical Providers

It is very important that you follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations or use the medications prescribed for you. Many times, a Social Security judge will ask a claimant why they haven’t tried a particular form of treatment or why they are not using medication. If the judge believes that you might be able to work or that your disabling condition could be controlled if you were following your doctors instructions, you may lose your case. On the other hand, if you can a tell the judge that you have tried everything your doctors have recommended but you are still  disabled, you have a much stronger case.

Unfortunately, not everyone has health insurance or the financial ability to get treatment. If you are in that situation, make sure to explain to the judge why you haven’t been able to get all the treatment a doctor might have recommended for you.

Make Sure That Your Lifestyle Is Consistent with Your Claim of Disability

If you are claiming to be disabled from work, then your lifestyle should be consistent with that claim. In other words, if you tell a Social Security judge that you cannot work but are still able to hunt, fish, bowl, golf, hike, etc., the judge will not likely be persuaded that you are not capable of working. A Social Security judge will look very closely at the physical activities you are able to perform on a daily basis. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that the judge understands that any physical activities you perform are only done on a very limited basis as your medical condition allows. For example,  you may still do some  fishing or hunting, but you’ll need to explain that it is on an extremely limited basis, if at all, and is not anything at all like the fishing or hunting you enjoyed before you became disabled.

Tell the Truth

Perhaps the single most important thing you have going for you at a Social Security hearing is your credibility. If the Social Security judge believes your testimony, you have the best chance to win your claim. It is understandable that you may be in a desperate financial situation and feel the need to exaggerate your symptoms or disabling conditions in order to win the case. Don’t do it. If the judge suspects that you are exaggerating or being less than honest on any issues, she may find all of your testimony unbelievable and deny your claim. A key part of many claims is the amount of pain that you are experiencing and which might prevent you from working. It is essential that the judge believes you when you describe your level of pain and how it keeps you from working. If the judge doesn’t believe that aspect of your claim, , you will most likely lose.
If you have questions about a Social Security disability claim, please feel free to contact Bradt Law Offices for your absolutely free consultation. We have been handling Social Security disability claims all across northern Minnesota for nearly 30 years and are always happy to discuss your claim at any stage of the claim process. We can discuss your claim over the phone or arrange for a meeting in our office.

If you have other questions about Social Security disability claims, you can visit our website where we have a list of common questions and answers, including:

 

1. What are Social Security disability benefits?
2. How much will I receive if Social Security decides I’m disabled?
3. How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
4. What do I do if my claim is denied?
5. When should I hire a lawyer to represent me?
6. How do I pay a lawyer in a Social Security disability case?

Thank you for visiting our blog.

Archives

LEGAL DISCLAIMER

This blog/website is intended to provide general information and is not intended to substitute for individual legal counsel on any specific problem. No attorney-client relationship is created or intended to be created by use or viewing of this blog/website. Any visitor seeking specific legal advice should contact an attorney. Any links provided from this site, other than to Bradt Law Offices, are for informational purposes only. We have no control over and make no warranties as to the accuracy of information contained on any linked sites. The information presented on this website is based on the laws of the state of Minnesota. Anyone viewing this website who resides outside of the state of Minnesota should be aware that the laws in their state may differ. Every effort has been made to present accurate and current information on this blog/website. If you have a question about the accuracy of any of the information presented here, please contact Bradt Law Offices at 218-327-1235.