I’m often asked by clients if they will have to testify at their Social Security disability hearing. In many cases, the answer is yes.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) will decide cases based on the medical evidence in the file – this includes x-rays and other imaging exams, lab panels, treatment notes, and written statements from the claimant and the claimant’s treating physicians, and likely your testimony.
Your testimony is offered with the intent of allowing the ALJ to better understand your specific medical conditions and how it affects your ability to function and perform basic work activities (including your past work), and your life in general. The ALJ may also ask about apparent inconsistencies between your medical records and your statements or testimony.
Many of my clients relay to me that the disability hearing is anxiety provoking. For this reason, it is especially important to have an experienced attorney or advocate by your side. Your attorney can help you prepare for your hearing by discussing many of the questions that may come up, and can provide responses to some of the important issues that may arise at your hearing.
If you are asked to testify before an ALJ, your responses should be honest and detailed, but not to the point of exaggeration (i.e., “I cannot get out of my bed at all” or “I cannot do anything anymore”). You also need to avoid being modest or showing how strong you are by not complaining about how your impairment(s) impact your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Being modest about your medical condition is a mistake many claimants make at their hearing.
For more information about testifying at your hearing, see this Special Report entitled “What To Expect At Your Hearing.”
If you are applying for disability and have questions about testifying, it never hurts to talk to or retain an experienced Social Security attorney who can help you properly prepare your case.