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How Should I Answer Questions During a Hearing with an ALJ?

May 18, 2015

We recently wrote about the importance of preparing for your first hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). Preparing your answers to the ALJ’s questions is only half the battle; answering truthfully is the important part.

The Social Security Administration does a nice job detailing the ALJ’s responsibilities where claimant testimony is concerned:

The ALJ determines the subject and scope of claimants’ and witnesses’ testimony, and how and when they will testify at the hearing (e.g., the ALJ may decide to use the question and answer method or allow the claimant or witness to testify in his or her own way). If a claimant or witness requests to testify in a particular way, or at a particular time during the hearing, and has a good reason for making the request, the ALJ should make a reasonable effort to accommodate the person. If the ALJ does not grant the request of a claimant or witness to testify in a particular time or way, the ALJ shall state on the record the reasons the request is being denied.

As a claimant, it can be easy to view the ALJ’s line of questioning as accusatory or overcritical, but many of the questions the ALJ asks are purely for credibility and verification purposes. Most of the time, the ALJ has the answers to questions he or she poses right in front of them – documents, medical reports or third party statements.

Between each report or document, there can occasionally be conflicting information. It’s the ALJ’s job to sort out the truth where your impairments are concerned and how those impairments affect your activities and day-to-day living. Remember, this is the time for you to let the ALJ know how your impairments prevent you from working on a full time basis by answering their questions truthfully and to the best of your knowledge.

Thinking of applying for disability benefits? Call Balin Law for a free consultation at 1-866-49-BALIN or fill out a contact form here.

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