As a Louisiana Disability Attorney, I understand that attending and participating in a Social Security disability benefits hearing can be scary for you. In fact, most of my clients have never been through anything similar to their disability hearing. I usually hold a meeting with my clients in advance of the hearing where we discuss “the lay of the land.” That is, what you will likely see when you walk into the room and what you should expect.
The Room Layout at a Social Security Disability Benefits Hearing
Most hearing accommodations are very similar, although there are some slight variations if you have a live hearing versus a video hearing. The hearing room is usually just a modified office in an office building or local Social Security Office. It is generally not a big open courtroom like you see on television. The typical hearing room will usually include:
- A table with a microphone and computer for you and/or your disability attorney
- Space with a computer and microphone for the vocational expert
- An area for the judge’s aide/hearing reporter, in most instances
- The judge’s bench with a computer, or if a video hearing, a video screen where the ALJ will appear.
I also like to make sure that my clients understand that the hearing is closed to the public. This is not like a regular courtroom where anybody can listen in to the proceedings. The hearing is a private matter and the only people in the hearing room are the participants, and possibly a witness (but the witness may not stay for the entire proceedings).
What Are Some Best Practices and Things to Expect?
- You will be sworn in and will declare to tell the truth. You must take your oath seriously.
- You should speak loudly and use clear words to give your testimony. This means no nodding, or shaking your head, no “uh-huhs” or “nh-unhs,” because an audio recording cannot accurately grasp what you are trying to convey.
- If your testimony requires you to point or indicate a portion of your body, you should also verbally state which body part you are discussing. For example, while pointing to your lower back to show the judge where you are in pain, you should also state, “my lower back from behind my stomach down to my tailbone.”
- If a question can be easily answered using “yes” or “no” do that, but if you need to give an additional explanation, make sure to add that in as well.
- Do not talk at the same time as anyone else. So, wait for the question to be completely asked before you start your answer.
- If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated.
- If you need to take a break, or stand up/walk around, etc., request permission from the judge.
- Make sure to wear appropriate clothing (no tank tops, shorts, hats, etc.).
- Do not chew gum, tobacco, candy, etc. during the hearing. If you need lozenges due to illness, make sure you alert the judge at the beginning of the proceedings.
The biggest tip I could give to you is to be prepared—know what you have to prove and have a plan for doing it. If you are uncertain about this, a local SSDI lawyer can help you.
These are a few basic Social Security disability hearing tips that are generally applicable. In some cases, additional things may be added due to a specific judge’s preferences.
If you need assistance with your Louisiana Social Security disability hearing, please give us a call at 985-240-9773 or fill out the contact form to the left.