During a Social Security Disability hearing, you want to say the right things to increase your chances of a successful outcome. But what about the things you shouldn’t say? Certain statements or phrases that could be misconstrued could weaken your claim, potentially leading to a denial of the disability benefits you deserve.
In light of this fact, securing legal representation before your Social Security Disability hearing is strongly advised. When we handle your case, one of our Social Security Disability lawyers will meet with you well in advance of your hearing to prepare you.
In the meantime, here are some statements you should avoid making during a disability hearing.
“It’s Been a While” or Other Vague Answers
As a law firm that has represented numerous claimants in Social Security disability hearings, we’ve found that vague responses like “It’s been a while” are particularly unpopular with Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). This kind of answer undermines your credibility as a witness.
Consider these examples:
- When were you last paid for work? Response: “It’s been a while.”
- When did you last use methamphetamine? Response: “It’s been a while.”
- When was the last time you cut someone’s hair? Response: “It’s been a while.”
The judges require a clear timeline for specific events and responding with a vague timeframe like “It’s been a while” is generally discouraged. It is best to provide a more precise answer, offering at least the month and year.
Questions related to chronology can be challenging, and while some answers may naturally be somewhat vague, it’s important to avoid testing the judge’s patience. Anticipating the questions beforehand gives you time to think about the dates so you can provide thoughtful and detailed responses during the hearing.
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“No One Will Hire Me” or Similar Statements
When trying to emphasize that you cannot change careers, you may be tempted to say things like, “I can’t find a job anyway, or “Nobody will hire me.”
These statements imply that you are able to work and that the only reason you do not have a job is that nobody will hire you.
Social Security disability is for people who are unable to work due to a disabling condition, so making it sound like you may have looked for work could result in a denial.
“My Pain is Constantly at Level 10” or Other Exaggerated Statements
Avoid embellishing your symptoms, as exaggeration can diminish your credibility and undermine trust in your statements. Stick to the facts of your condition and symptoms, maintaining honesty throughout.
Judges can discern if symptoms are exaggerated by conducting a thorough review of your medical records and relevant documentation.
“I Used To Have a Drug Problem” or Other Unsolicited Information
Some claimants, understandably ready to communicate with an Administrative Law Judge after years of anticipation, end up providing unsolicited details when answering questions.
While it’s crucial to respond truthfully to any questions posed by the ALJ, volunteering information that isn’t explicitly requested can be detrimental to your case.
Subjects to avoid unless you are directly questioned include:
- Any family members receiving unemployment or disability benefits
- Details about your criminal history
- Issues related to alcohol or drugs
- Non-compliance with your doctor’s orders
- Living in a town with no available job opportunities
- Challenges in commuting to work due to a lack of transportation
Never bring up alcohol or drug use, criminal history, a family member’s disability or unemployment, or similar topics unless specifically prompted. However, if the ALJ directly inquires about any of these matters, respond truthfully.
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How to Answer Questions During Your Social Security Disability Hearing
Providing detailed, descriptive, and specific answers to questions enhances your credibility during a hearing. For example, instead of a generic “my legs hurt,” offer a detailed description such as “pain going down my legs into the bones and through the joints.” Be factual, honest, and thorough to convey the severity of your condition.
Answering questions about your medical condition and daily life will be manageable with guidance from a lawyer who can prepare you for specific questions. Your attorney can also help you avoid mistakes during the application process.
Whether you are applying for disability for the first time, have an upcoming hearing, or need to appeal an initial denial, one of our disability lawyers can evaluate your case and guide you through your next steps.
Free Consultation With an Experienced Social Security Disability Lawyer
At Pilzer Klein, our Social Security Disability lawyers have decades of experience representing clients at the Social Security Administration hearing offices in upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina. We are committed to safeguarding your rights and getting you the benefits you deserve.
When we handle your disability claim, there’s no fee unless you successfully obtain your benefits so that you can enlist our help without financial risk. Contact us today to explore how we can guide you through the disability approval process.