What Can I Expect at a Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge?
At the hearing, you will appear and give testimony under oath regarding your pain and other symptoms and how your symptoms limit your ability to perform every day tasks such as cooking, grocery shopping, household chores, driving, and engaging in social activities. This testimony is evidence that the judge must consider along with the medical evidence in your file when making a decision regarding your ability to perform work activities.
The judge may also have a vocational expert appear at the hearing to give testimony as to whether a hypothetical person of your age, education, work history, impairments, and functional limitations could return to your past relevant work. The Administrative Law Judge will also ask the vocational expert whether this hypothetical person could perform other work activity that exists in a "mythical" national economy.
If your treating physician has completed a Residual Functional Capacity Form, the Administrative Law Judge will use the limitations and restrictions cited by your physician in forming his questions to the vocational expert to determine if your restrictions would prevent you from performing your past work activity and any other work activity. If it can be shown that you are unable to return to your past relevant work and cannot perform any other work activity on a regular and continuing basis, you will likely win your disability claim.
However, if your physician has not been asked to provide detailed information about your exertional and non-exertional limitations, the Administrative Law Judge will rely on the opinions of the Social Security Consulting physicians in asking the vocational rehabilitation counselor questions about your ability to work. In most cases, this means your claim will be denied because the consulting physicians almost always find that the claimant can perform at least light work activity on a regular basis.
Keep in mind, that the Social Security Administration never asks your physician to complete a Residual Functional Capacity form. Unless you or your representative requests this information, it is unlikely that your doctor’s opinion regarding your functional capacity will make it into your claims file.
Since most claims are denied at the first two levels, the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is your best opportunity to get a full and fair hearing regarding your disability. However, it is unreasonable for you to expect that you can simply walk into a hearing and win without preparation and solid evidence! At The Law Offices of Nancy L. Cavey, we are committed to developing the evidence necessary to accurately document your impairments and the functional limitations resulting from those impairments, submitting the evidence to the court and making sure that you are properly prepared for your hearing.
Answering these broad-based questions isn't easy. Help is a phone call away. You can contact Nancy Cavey, an experienced long-term disability attorney at 727-894-3188.