I have represented Social Security Disability claimants for a number of years and this is what I would imagine an Administrative Law Judge would tell you about the hearing process.
Q: What is your main job?
A: My role is to come up with a fair decision after applying the facts and Social Security rules and law. This involves asking the claimant a number of questions for approximately one hour, and reviewing the medical records usually covering a two to three year period.
Q: What would you tell someone who is going to appear before you for their disability hearing?
A: The hearing is different from television legal shows or other courtrooms in a number of ways. As the Judge I spend a great deal of time asking the person seeking disability a number of questions. The questions include background questions about their living arrangements, daily activities, ability to perform chores, symptoms and limitations as result of their conditions. I will often ask why they cannot work a job. At the end of the hearing I will ask a vocational consultant how certain limitations effect the ability to perform jobs.
Q: What is the most important thing you look for in deciding whether a person is disabled?
A: The medical records tell the real story. People who do not go the doctor on a regular basis do not have much of a chance to win their case. The law requires a person to prove their case. The observations of medical personnel, medical tests such as an xray, mri, breathing test, or heart test are important ways of proving the basis for pain and limitations. There are certainly other ways such as disability parking placard forms and prescriptions for braces, canes, walkers also.
Q: What advice would you give to someone seeking disability?
A: Make sure get professional help from the beginning. The disability process is long and complex. The Social Security law only allows a lawyer to be paid if they win your case. Social Security Disability benefits, in most situations, cover your lifetime. The attorney fee is a small amount in comparison to lifetime benefits.
As I mentioned this is what I think a Social Security Judge would tell you based on my experience. Specific questions about your case? Feel free to contact Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Dirk May at 309-827-4371.