When you have a hearing coming up in your Social Security Disability case, you need to present yourself to the administrative law judge in the right way.
This, after all, is one of the most important moments in your case. It’s your chance to explain persuasively how your health problems keep you from working and why you need benefits.
Understandably, a lot of my clients ask how they should dress for this occasion.
Sometimes people get the wrong ideas about what they should do.
You don’t need to be too formal. But you don’t want to appear too casual and messy, either.
I tell people to arrive at their hearings looking neat and tidy. Think of what you would wear to church.
After years of experience with disability hearings, I’ve gathered the following advice on how to dress:
Go with a Relaxed Look
As you prepare for your hearing, you might be thinking about going to a courtroom. That sounds like the kind of place where you have to dress up.
But disability hearings are informal.
You need to make a good impression, but if you look like you could be attending a wedding or a funeral, that’s overdoing it for this occasion.
For women: Go light on accessories. You don’t need heavy makeup or a lot of jewelry.
A good rule to follow is to take your normal amount of time getting ready before you leave for your hearing. Don’t spend a lot of extra time getting ready.
For men: Wear a long-sleeved shirt with buttons. You don’t need a tie.
Avoid shirts with writing on them. One time a client of mine showed up for bankruptcy court with a joke printed on his shirt. It didn’t matter whether the joke was funny. He didn’t make the best impression in court.
Go with an Orderly Look
Sometimes people spread rumors that you should attend a disability hearing looking rough on purpose.
I don’t buy that at all.
Your medical problems may indeed make you feel terrible. Your loss of income might make it impossible to afford new clothes.
But you should show the effort to look presentable, despite everything you’re going through.
If you show up looking too ruffled and sloppy, it’s possible for a judge to decide you’re overplaying your condition.
Go for Comfort
Above all, do not stress out about your appearance.
Your appearance is not evidence. The outcome of your claim will have more to do with how compelling your medical evidence is than what you look like on hearing day.
Do what you can to be comfortable.
Other Tips for Hearing Day:
- Arrive 30 minutes early.
- Remember that you will be searched by a security guard when you enter.
- Bring your driver’s license.
- You don’t need to bring anything else, like pill bottles, to show your health conditions.