Preparing for Your Social Security Disability Hearing

Social Security Disability Hearings are different than court hearings in that the judge will question the disabled claimant as well as witnesses. In that way they are similar to Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, and Judge Alex, which you may have seen on television. But that’s where the similarity ends. They do not render their decisions in 30 minutes, there are no commercial breaks, and there is definitely no music!

There is no lawyer present for the federal government, so the judge in the Social Security hearing wears two hats. One hat is that of the questioner and the other hat is that of the adjudicator. When Herndon disability lawyer Doug Landau tries cases in Charlottesville, Manassas, Fairfax and other parts of Virginia, the judge generally tells the witnesses for the client to wait outside during the testimony until it is their turn to speak. This “sequestration” of the witnesses can be unnerving, especially if you don’t know what is going to happen. The judges simply do not want the witnesses to hear what prior witnesses are saying, and then parrot the same words in their own sworn testimony.

Lawyer Doug Landau about to go into a client's Social Security Disability Hearing in Charlottesville, Virginia
Lawyer Doug Landau about to go into a client’s Social Security Disability Hearing in Charlottesville, Virginia

While judges used to let Mr. Landau put on lay witnesses for his client first, as it saved time and was often helpful for psychiatric illness cases, most judges now want to interrogate the claimant first, and then hear from other witnesses later. Lawyer Landau tells family members, neighbors, and friends about this procedure. He suggests that they write down a half dozen true stories about the claimant. These true stories should support the fact that the disabled individual cannot do regular work on any competitive or consistent basis.

In other words, true stories of things that these witnesses have observed, in terms of being unable to carry light objects, falling, bumping into things, leaving the stove on and catching fire, forgetting to take medications, etc., can be very helpful in supporting a claim that an individual cannot perform regular gainful employment. Sketching down notes well ahead of time helps keep witnesses from getting nervous or forgetting the stories. Lawyer Landau tends not to prepare clients at the hearing site. Instead, the disability law team at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. endeavors to thoroughly prepare clients and their witnesses and supporters well in advance. By working hard once a case has been assigned to a judge and a Hearing site, Landau tries to make every client ready for nearly any questions that may arise. If you or someone you know or care for is disabled and needs help with Social Security Disability and there are questions about what laws apply, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555) at once.