The Social Security Disability Hearing Process Explained


The Social Security Disability Hearing Process Explained

October 26, 2020

If your initial application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits is denied, there is an appeals process you can avail yourself of in hopes of overturning the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) decision. If your claim was denied by the Disability Determination Services (DDS) team that reviewed it (2/3 of all initial disability applications get denied), then you go to the next level and file a “Request for Reconsideration” (some states allow claimants to skip the reconsideration step). If your claim was denied again by a different DDS team, then you have reached the administrative hearing level. You will have 60 days to request this hearing after you have received notice that your reconsideration has been denied. If you do not submit the request for a hearing within this time period and you later decide to continue with your pursuit to obtain benefits, you will be required to begin the application process over again.

Prior to the hearing, your case was decided by a State Agency Adjudicator--a government employee whom you did not meet with and whose evaluation was based on your medical records only. You can now expect a completely new, direct, review of your case to by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) based upon his/her observation of you, listening to your testimony, and review of the medical and vocational record. This judge had no role in the earlier denials of your claim and is not bound by any of the previous findings made by the State Agency Adjudicator.

It is advantageous to request a hearing after an initial claim and reconsideration are denied because a large percentage of claims get initially denied, but then approved and awarded benefits after a hearing. More than sixty percent of appeals made at the hearing level are decided in favor of the applicant, statistically the highest award rate of any step in the appeals process.

What Happens at a Social Security Disability Hearing?
Understanding what happens at a Social Security disability hearing, and what the judge will likely ask you, can lower anxiety and stress beforehand. You may be confused about the process and curious about what to expect. What is going to happen? Who will be there? What does the courtroom look like? Will I be asked a lot of questions? You should know as much as possible before you get into the hearing room so that you are comfortable and able to best participate in the proceedings.

While the process can vary significantly depending on the reason a claim was denied and the medical issues of the claimant, there are some common features that will take place at all hearings. Although most follow a similar pattern, there can be slight variations depending on the judge’s preferences.

Attendees at the Hearing
There will be several attendees at a disability hearing, including you, the claimant:
• The ALJ – He or she will ultimately decide whether to approve or deny your claim.
• Hearing assistant – A court reporter. This person will record or type a record of the proceedings.
• Your legal representative – An attorney or advocate (if you have one), to represent you.
• Expert witnesses – Frequently the judge will request a “Vocational Expert” (VE) and/or a “Medical Expert” (ME) who will testify at the hearing. These experts do not examine you and don’t speak to you directly, but instead are asked to provide information about the medical and vocational issues in your case and respond to questions related to your particular conditions.
The ME, a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, orthopedist, internist, cardiologist, or other healthcare professional will assist the judge by summarizing the medical record. The ME testimony usually relates to medical diagnoses and the ME’s opinion about the seriousness of your disabling condition, and the legitimacy of your complaints as related to the diagnosis. Some Judges call MEs frequently. Other judges call them rarely.
The VE, a job placement professional, who often participates by phone, will testify about your past work as to your ability to sustain employment, and answer hypothetical questions about work you might be able to do given certain limitations.
• Other witnesses – You may bring witnesses of your own to testify on your behalf, such as family members, friends, colleagues, even medical experts. If you plan on bringing a witness to testify on your behalf, you should notify the ALJ beforehand in writing. Good witnesses are persons who see you regularly and know how your medical condition affects you and the activities that you are not able to do. Whether or not these witness testimonies are heard or taken into consideration is decided by the ALJ. They may not be allowed to stay for the entire proceedings. Often the ALJ will ask your witness to leave the room while he or she questions you.

The Physical Environment of a Social Security Hearing Room
SSA Disability hearings are not as formal as traditional courtroom proceedings. However, the hearing will follow specific procedures and will be conducted according to established rules.

They are usually held in conference rooms in an office building or local Social Security Office. An ALJ presides over the hearing in person or on a large video screen. The ALJ, court reporter, expert witnesses, and any other witnesses will attend along with you and your attorney. Most ALJs wear judicial robes and generally sit in the front of the room on an elevated platform. You should stand when the ALJ enters the room and wait until the ALJ has taken his or her seat before resuming yours. There is no bailiff or jury box and disability cases are not open to the public. A hearing reporter will operate recording equipment. The microphones at the witness table are connected to this recording equipment. The hearing will be tape-recorded. When you enter the hearing room, you will be directed to sit in a specific chair. You and your lawyer will be seated at a large conference table. You may be asked to stand to swear to tell the truth. If friends or family members want to be there to support you, they will need to wait in the waiting room until after the hearing is over.

The Start of the Proceedings
Prior to your hearing, the judge will have examined the medical records that you and your representative have submitted to the SSA. In most cases, the judge and your attorney will address some administrative issues first. After identifying each person in the room, the ALJ will introduce himself/herself along with the hearing assistant and any VE and/or ME witnesses. He/she will then ask your attorney to state his/her name. If a claimant is not working with an attorney, the Judge begins by reading a brief statement setting out the basic facts of the case and issues to be heard regarding your SSDI or SSI application. These issues are located in the “Notice of Hearing” document that you receive in advance of the hearing. In most cases, he/she will ask your lawyer to waive a formal reading of the issues. The Judge will ask if the record is complete and if there are any outstanding records not in your file. You or your representative have the right to submit new medical evidence that wasn’t available at the time of your initial denials. He or she will then confirm with your lawyer that there are no objections to the exhibits and that the issues in the case have been discussed with you, then formally admit the case file as evidence. Next, the ALJ will swear in the applicant, the medical and vocational experts, and any other witnesses to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. Some judges will ask your lawyer for a “theory of the case,” similar to a brief opening statement, which is an argument presented to the ALJ in writing prior to the hearing and in person at the hearing. Others may not. This is where your attorney explains to the judge the specific provisions in the law that make you disabled.

The Social Security Disability Hearing Process Explained

Direct Examination
The majority of the time in the hearing room is spent with the judge, and, if you are represented, your attorney or advocate, asking the claimant questions. If you have not hired an attorney, the ALJ will conduct all the questioning.

Even if represented, most often the judge will do the majority of the direct examination. Occasionally, the judge will ask your lawyer to do it. Generally, even if your attorney questions you, the ALJ will at any point ask further questions for clarification or to gain additional information. Either way, your attorney will always be given an opportunity to ask you questions during the hearing to inform the judge of important details.

Every judge has his or her own style, but there are certain questions that every judge wants answered. These questions include your medical condition(s) and treatment, your past work history, educational background, and how the medical issues impact and limit your daily life, activities, and how it prevents you from working. You need to prove you have a serious medical problem that has lasted or that will last for at least 12 months and that keeps you from working.

The questioning usually begins with basic information such as name, address, date of birth, age, height and weight, education completed, marital status, and living arrangements (home, apartment, etc.). You will then usually be questioned about your past work performed in the last 15 years. The ALJ or your lawyer will want to know how long you worked at each job, what your duties were, what the physical requirements of the job were, how much you had to lift or carry on that job, how long did you had to sit and stand, did you do any reaching or bending, how did you use your hands on the job, did you supervise or manage other employees, and why you left the job. If your condition caused you to miss a lot of work or caused you to stop working, you should explain this.

The reason these questions are asked is to determine what were the exertional (physical) requirements and the non-exertional (non-physical) requirements of the job. In order to be awarded disability benefits, you must show that you lack the capacity to perform this past work. If the ALJ finds that you can perform any of your past relevant work then you will be found not disabled.

You will also be questioned about the doctors you see, the treatment you are getting, any procedure being planned for your condition like surgery, medications you are taking, and any side effects from those medications. The ALJ or lawyer may also ask about any hospitalizations.

There will also be a series of questions about the physical and mental limitations of your condition. The judge will ask about symptoms and how you are limited by them. How much weight can you lift? How long you can stand, sit, walk? Can you use your hands for picking up small objects or grabbing larger objects? Can you reach out in front of you or above your head? If you suffer from a psychiatric condition you will be asked about it. Do you have any problems with memory or concentration? How do you get along with others?

There will also be a series of questions about your daily activities. You will be asked about what you do on a typical day. Do you clean? Do you cook? Watch TV? Take care of children? Go shopping?

It is important to respond to these questions honestly. You need to be accurate and clear in your answers. Be detailed in your responses. Be thorough. You do not want to exaggerate your disability symptoms or minimize them either. Speak clearly about any limitations caused by the disability, and how it affects your daily life and your ability to work. Don’t analyze the questions. Just answer truthfully. You need to be credible. ALJs can identify exaggerations and lies. If the ALJ believes your answers are not honest or that you are exaggerating, he or she will consider this when deciding your claim and you will likely lose your chance at disability benefits.

Following your testimony, the judge will usually give your representative a chance to ask you any additional questions.

Expert Witnesses will Participate at my Hearing?
After taking testimony from you and/or your witnesses, the Judge usually will take expert witness testimony. Expert witnesses are neutral. They are not there to hurt you or to help you. Expert witnesses come from a panel of experts selected by Social Security. Any expert witnesses in attendance will be asked about your condition and any work you would be able to do with your medical issues. These individuals provide details about your ability to work and sustain at a particular job or what jobs they feel you are suited to perform despite your medical problems.

These may include both Medical Experts and Vocational Experts. The job of the expert witnesses is to testify as to your ability to work and whether your condition impairs that ability. An ME will help explain the medical evidence, and provide their opinion on how serious and disabling your medical condition is and whether or not it prevents you from undertaking regular employment. A VE, based on your medical records and testimony, will describe your past work, testify about whether in their opinion you could do your past jobs, and answer hypothetical questions from the judge about the types of work someone with a similar disability as yours could perform given your impairments and limitations. Your lawyer or representative will also be given an opportunity to question and cross-examine the vocational and medical expert.

Vocational Expert
The VE testimony is especially important. The judge will use the VE to “translate” the judge’s conclusions about your specific work limitations into a vocational profile. The judge does this by formulating a series of hypothetical questions for the VE in which he/she attempts to identify any capacity you might have for performing work.

The VE may be a job placement professional, a professor, or a vocational rehabilitation counselor. This is an individual with a background in placing injured or disabled people in the workplace and with knowledge regarding the lifting, standing, sitting, and skills required for different jobs. The VE’s job is to classify your past work and describe for the judge the skill level of your past work (unskilled, semi-skilled, or skilled) along with the exertional level called for in this job (sedentary/sit-down, light, medium, or heavy). The judge wants this information to determine whether your claimed impairment would prevent you from returning to your past work and whether you have acquired any skills that would transfer to less demanding work.

Vocational experts will be familiar with a publication called the Directory of Occupational Titles which is a book published by the U.S. Department of Labor that describes the physical and mental requirements of all jobs that exist in the United States.

The ALJ will ask the VE whether he or she thinks you can do your past work based on the testimony you have given about your condition. If the VE says you cannot do your old job, the ALJ will ask more questions about how your documented limitations affect your ability to work. The ALJ will then ask the VE a series of questions (called hypotheticals), such as, whether a hypothetical individual with your age, education, work experience and a set of work restrictions determined by the judge, could perform any other employment in the economy. It is quite possible that the ALJ will ask the VE a few hypothetical questions with different work restrictions. The role of the VE is to provide the ALJ with an opinion as to what jobs you are able to perform despite your limitations. Depending on the severity of the work restrictions, the VE may testify that the hypothetical individual may be able to work or may be unable to work. Your attorney will have the opportunity to ask their hypothetical questions with additional limitations they believe the record supports that are more favorable to your claim. Ultimately, your hope is that the vocational witness will conclude that there are no jobs that exist in the national economy for a person with your limitations.

Examples of Vocational Expert Testimony
The Judge will use the VE to “translate” your medical problems into work limitations. After listening to your testimony, the Judge will pose one or more questions about your job capacity to the VE. For example:

1. “Mr. VE, assume I find that the claimant is 48 years old, with a high school education, and has past work as a machine operator, as a shift supervisor at a convenience store, and as a shift supervisor at a retail store. Further, assume that I find that the claimant has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has a moderate level of pain all the time. Further, assume that the claimant can stand for no more than 20 minutes at a time and that standing can constitute no more than 2 hours total during a work day. Sitting is unlimited, although the claimant needs a “sit/stand” option. Could this claimant return to her past work? Could she do any other work?

2. “Mr. VE, assume the same limitations set out in question 1, but add the following limitations. Assume that I find that the claimant’s testimony is credible in her statement that her pain level rises to a “severe” level at least one hour per day at unpredictable times. This severe level of pain would cause a significant interference with attention and concentration. Assume further that as a result of pain, the claimant would likely leave work early or miss work entirely 1 to 2 days per week.

What does all this mean? In response to question one, the VE testified that the claimant could not return to past work, but could perform a variety of unskilled, sedentary jobs. In response to question two, the VE testified that the claimant could not return to either past work or to any other job. The wording of the question to the VE can result in a win or a loss.

After the experts have testified, the judge may ask you a few more questions. The last question to you will usually be whether there is something else that you want to say. After the questioning and testimony are over some judges ask your lawyer may make a closing statement. This is where your attorney applies the testimony of the witnesses to the provisions in the law which would render you disabled. This is sometimes done with a brief. Then the judge concludes the hearing.

What You Must Remember When Testifying
The most important ideas for you to remember when testifying are as follows:
• Tell the truth.
• Be specific – instead of saying “I can’t walk very far and I can’t lift very much,” say “It’s about 25 yards to my mailbox. When I get to the mailbox, I have to stop because my knees hurt so bad and my chest hurts. When I come back, I have to support myself on a fence so I won’t lose my balance.” “As far as lifting, I tried to lift a gallon of milk about a month ago, but I could not hold it, even with both hands, and it fell and spilled on the floor.”
• Be very descriptive when describing pain. Don’t say “It hurts a lot.” Instead, say “When I get a migraine, I can’t do anything. I feel nauseous and sick. I turn off the lights, lie in bed with a cold compress on my forehead and I try not to think at all. It usually takes my medicine about an hour to kick in – even that does not help – it just puts me to sleep.”
• Provide facts, details, and explanations in your testimony. Here’s an example. If the judge asks “Do you wash dishes?”, you might be tempted to simply answer “Yes” and stop speaking. However, in reality, you can only wash dishes for ten minutes at a time because your back hurts and you need to take a break. It takes you several 10-minute stints to wash the dishes and afterward, you’re so exhausted that you have to take a nap. “Yes” doesn’t tell the whole story.
• If you need to take a break to stand and walk around, request permission from the judge. This is especially important if you testify that you can sit without interruption for no more than 15 minutes, then you sit still at your hearing for an hour.
• Bring your bottles of medicine – the judge may want to see them.
• Your attitude ought to be “If I could work, I would work.” Indicate to the judge how you enjoyed being productive and useful. Don’t tell the judge that you are “disabled” – that is his/her job to decide.

Administrative Law Judge Hearing – What Happens
The hearing itself is not adversary style like criminal or civil trials. There is no prosecutor appearing on behalf of the SSA trying to prove a claimant is not disabled. The Judges are uniformly polite and compassionate in conducting these hearings.

The hearings are reasonably informal in that the strict rules of evidence that apply in criminal or civil court do not apply. For example, hearsay is permissible. The claimant could tell the judge what her doctor had told her about her back problems and his opinion about her ability to return to work.

The judge is interested in hearing evidence regarding the type of work the claimant previously performed. He or she will want to know the physical requirements of his/her past jobs. Your vocational background is important because the Judge has to determine if you have skills from your past jobs that could be transferred to enable you to obtain other less demanding jobs.

For example, a person who had been a manual laborer in construction would have very few transferable job skills as compared to a school teacher. The more transferable the job skills that you possess the more difficult it is for you to obtain disability benefits.

The ALJ is interested in the claimant’s educational background and any special training you may have received. Claimants with greater educational backgrounds have more ability to obtain other work outside their past jobs than those with limited educations.

The judge will also consider your age. The SSA takes the position that younger persons are more likely than older persons to be able to locate jobs.

What are the odds of winning my disability case at the hearing?
Every case is different. There are so many factors that can affect your case that it’s impossible to predict. That being said, one of the biggest indicators is the individual ALJ’s approval statistics. That is not to say that this will have any bearing on your particular case, but rather, is just a general idea of how your particular ALJ tends to rule.

Get Professional Legal Help at Your Social Security Disability Hearing
While you are not required to have representation at your hearing, you can attend with a lawyer, paralegal, or other advocate. When appealing a denied Social Security disability claim, retaining an experienced attorney will increase your odds of a favorable decision. Those who have an advocate or attorney representing them at a Social Security hearing have a 60% chance of being approved for disability benefits.

The Social Security Disability Hearing Process Explained

How does an Attorney Help with my Disability Hearing?
Hearings can be intimidating and complicated. A Social Security disability attorney can help to ensure that the best possible case is put before the judge and can help prepare you for the hearing by:
• Collecting and submitting evidence and medical records to the SSA well in advance of the hearing date.
• Describing what occurs at the hearing, from what claimants wear to court, to what type of questions to expect from the judge.
• Practicing potential questions that the judge may ask you and crafting responses.
• Answering any questions you have about the disability appeals process.

Plus, a local disability attorney may have appeared in front of the judges at the local office on a regular basis, and be familiar with your judge’s personality, procedures, and preferences.

An attorney can present your case in an organized manner that shows the judge that you meet the Social Security definition of disability, make sure that your hearing is held properly, that the right questions are asked, and that you are prepared to present your case. Your attorney will ensure that the facts in your case are fully realized, such as questioning you, and other witnesses that you have brought and cross-examining the SSA’s witnesses.

An attorney will usually charge a fee for representing you. The fee must be approved by the SSA. But attorneys will receive a fee only if you win your case and the fee is paid out of your back benefits, if any, directly by Social Security.

How Long Does a Social Security Hearing Last?
Most hearings are about 45 minutes in length. Some last much less and some last much longer. But, in general, if you are represented by an experienced representative or attorney, you should expect your hearing to be close to an hour. Hearings where the claimant is unrepresented rarely last longer than 30 minutes

As the length of hearings varies, your case may be called earlier or later than scheduled. As a rule, it is good practice to arrive at least 30 minutes before the appointed hearing time. ALJs have a busy schedule and, typically, will not hear an applicant's case if they are too late for their hearing.

When After the Disability Hearing Should I Receive a Decision?
The majority of the time, you won’t receive a decision at the end of the hearing. Instead, once the judge has had the opportunity to study the evidence and testimony, he or she will issue a written decision and send you (or your representative) a copy, by mail, 4 –12 weeks later. The length of time is not indicative of the nature of the decision.

In the written decision, the ALJ will explain which set of work restrictions you have and what evidence the ALJ relied on when determining your work restrictions. If the ALJ rules in your favor, the notice will inform you of the amount of benefits. Soon after, you should start receiving your payments.

However, occasionally, a judge may issue a “bench decision” (a decision on the day of the hearing) and tell you whether or not you’re approved before you leave. This is rare. Even if this happens, you’ll have to wait for a written decision to be issued before you’ll begin to receive benefits.

What Happens if I Win My Disability Case at the Hearing?
You will be issued a Notice of Award which calculates your benefits and any back benefits due. Traditionally, it was issued first and then payment, but recently, claimants have been receiving their benefits before receiving the Notice of Award. Review it to make sure you were not underpaid.

Your first monthly check will usually arrive approximately six weeks after a favorable decision, and your past-due benefits can take two to three months to arrive.

If you win benefits, you will get SSDI benefits retroactively depending on the date that you applied and on the date the judge says you became disabled. For SSI, you can only get benefits as far back as the date of your application.

What Happens if I Lose My Disability Case at the Hearing?
The hearing is a crucial stage in your case. However, it is not the final stage. If you are denied Social Security Disability benefits after your case has been heard by an ALJ, you can further appeal your claim. The next step in the process is to take your case before the Social Security Disability Appeals Council. If you ask that your case be reviewed by the Social Security Appeals Council in Washington D.C., you must file a Request for Review with the Appeals Council and make this request within 60 days of your unfavorable hearing decision.

If the Council refuses to review your case or decides against you, and you disagree with the Council’s decision, you have another 60 days to appeal to the U.S. District Court in your area. You will need a lawyer to appeal your case in court.

How Long does it take to Receive a Social Security Hearing Date?
The times to receive a hearing date vary from hearing office to hearing office. Generally, it takes between 6 and 18 months. Some responses to requests for hearings take longer than others, depending on the caseload at the time of filing. However, when your hearing is scheduled, you will receive a notice from the SSA at least 20 days in advance detailing the date, time, and location of the hearing.

Where and How Will My Hearing Take Place?
Once your claim progresses to the hearing stage, you are assigned an ALJ at an applicant's local hearing office within 75 miles of your home. Your hearing usually is held either in one of the SSA's 161 hearing offices or at satellite hearing locations in a rented venue such as a hotel conference room. Thus, finding out your assigned hearing office doesn’t mean that you’ll have your hearing at the main office.

If you are unable to travel for health or other reasons, or if you are somehow indisposed to attend the hearing in-person, you can also opt for a video teleconference disability hearing. You have the right to choose from both options when seeking a hearing. A video hearing offers some advantages. For example, you may be able to get a hearing date sooner compared to the regular hearing. Video hearings take place at designated venues, and you may also be able to select a venue that’s closer to your home (ask the SSA when you request a hearing). Remember you have the right to request that the hearing be conducted in person. Some attorneys argue that an in-person hearing is a better choice.

If you do not wish to appear at your hearing (either in person, via videoconference, or through a representative), you must file a Waiver of Your Right to Personal Appearance Before an Administrative Law Judge (Form HA-4608).

In most cases, your hearing will be in-person. Sometimes, a judge from outside of your area may be assigned to your claim due to a local backlog. In that case, you will appear in-person and your assigned ALJ will appear by videoconference. The Social Security Disability Hearing Process Explained

If the hearing will be held more than 75 miles from your home, you can ask the SSA to change the location.

Be aware that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, normal operating procedures for most hearings have switched from in-person to telephone hearings.

Examples of Questions Asked at Hearings
Personal Information
• State your full legal name
• State your mailing address.
• State your Social Security number
• State your age
• State your date of birth
• State your height and weight
• State your marital status

Disability and Limitation Issues
• What is the onset date of your disability?
• Describe the symptoms of your medical condition.
• What is your formal education? Did you finish high school or earn a G.E.D? Have you had any education or vocational training beyond high school? Have you had any training in the military?
• What is your diagnosis? What has your doctor told you about your condition?
• How does your disability impact or interfere with your daily activities?
• How long can you sit, stand, or walk without needing a rest break? How long of a rest break do you need before you can sit/stand/walk again?
• Are you able to understand, carry out, and remember instructions, to use good judgment, to respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers, clients or customers, usual work situations, and changes in your work setting? If not, describe these problems.
• Do you have any difficulties concentrating on tasks or remembering information?

Work Background Questions
• Are you currently working?
• Have you tried working since your onset date when you became disabled? Describe any unsuccessful work attempt(s) – who was the employer, what did you try to do, how long were you able to stay and why were you unable to remain on that job?
• Identify the last job you worked before your onset date – what were your job duties and responsibilities and what were your dates of employment? Why did you leave this job?
• What was the job before that – what were your job duties and responsibilities and dates of employment? Why did you leave this job?
• Going in date order, identify your past work going back for the past 15 years. What were your duties and responsibilities and dates of employment? Why did you leave these jobs?
• How did your disability impact your last job?

Medical Issues Questions
The medical record suggests that you have been diagnosed with __________ how does this condition/disease affect your capacity to work?
How long have you had this disease/condition?
When did it start and how has it progressed?
If you were going to describe __________ to someone who was not familiar with this disease/condition, how would you explain what it is like to live with it?

Specific Activity Limitation Questions (If Applicable)
• How long can you sit before you have to stand and move around? If you had a job that required standing and walking and you could take a break every ___ minutes, how many minutes or hours total during an 8-hour workday could you stand and/or walk?
• If you had a job that required sitting and you could take a break every___ minutes, how many minutes or hours total during an 8-hour workday could you sit?
• What is the maximum weight you can lift or carry on a frequent basis – frequent meaning at least 2/3 of a workday?
• What is the maximum weight you can lift or carry occasionally – occasionally meaning up to 1/3 of a workday?
• Are you able to bend, crawl or stoop, twist, climb, squat, crawl, and reach?
• Can you safely climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds?
• Do you have difficulty handling objects?
• Do you have any balance or other issues that would prevent you from working at unprotected heights?
• Do you have any need to take unscheduled bathroom breaks? If so, why and how often?

Questions About Activity Limitations Arising From Non-Physical Problems (Mental Health or Pain)
• Do you have any need to take other unscheduled breaks (i.e. crying spells)? If so, how often?
• Do you experience pain – if so, where in your body? When your pain is at its worst, how bad is it (use a scale of 1-10)? How often is your pain at that high level? Do you experience pain at a lower level? How often? Does this lower level pain interfere with activities? Does the pain make it difficult to concentrate?
• Are there activities/hobbies that you used to enjoy that you can no longer do?

Questions About Specific Activity Limitations (If Applicable)
• The record indicates that you have had some trouble with alcohol use/marijuana use/street drug use. Is that still a problem? • When was the last time you used it? • What type of program did you attend to address this problem?
• Do you have any trouble bending over? Can you tie your shoes? Button your coat?
• Can you read and write?
• Do you have pain? Is the pain burning, stabbing, crushing, sharp, throbbing, radiating or aching?
• Do you have dizziness, numbness, nausea or paralysis?
• Do you need assistance shopping, cleaning, or cooking?
• Do you need assistance with dressing, bathing, or personal hygiene?
• Do you now or did you in the past take medicine or receive any treatments? If so, how often? How well does the medication/treatments work? Does it have any side effects?
• Do you have any trouble hearing or seeing?
• Are you depressed?
• Do you drink alcohol or use drugs?
• Do you sleep well at night?
• Do you have to rest or take naps during the day?
• Do you drive a car or use public transportation?
• How often do you go to the doctor’s office?
• Do you go to church or attend other social events?
• What do you do for pleasure?
• How do you spend your time during a typical day?
• Can you do cooking, housework, gardening, hobbies, and other activities and, if so, for how long?

Not every question will be asked at your hearing, but it is important to be prepared and to know how to answer the questions that pertain to your disability.

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