Social Security

After a long wait, you finally will have your chance to appear before an Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration. We will meet and discuss this process in detail, however, here are some ways that you can prepare:

DON’T DRESS UP. We want the Judge to see you as you normally look every day around the house. Women should not wear fingernail polish or expensive jewelry.

TELL THE TRUTH. DO NOT overstate your problems, however, DO NOT understate your problems.

Listen to the question. Let the questioner (the judge or us) finish the question before you start to answer.

Answer the question that you are asked.

Answer the question and stop (DO NOT explain your answer unless asked to do so).

DO NOT question the judge.

DO NOT comment on the evidence or offer suggestions or thoughts to the judge.

DO NOT “think out loud.”

If you do not know the answer to the question say so, do not guess.

If you are not sure of an answer it is perfectly all right to say: “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.”

If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated or explained.

Speak up at your hearing so that you can be heard and understood.

Do not try to put on a brave front at your hearing. There are no awards for bravery. If it hurts, testify that it hurts. If you cannot do something, testify that you cannot do it. You cannot expect a fair decision from the Judge unless he or she knows what is wrong with you.

If, because of your condition, you need to stand up or walk around during your hearing, do it. You do not have to ask permission, however we suggest that you do. Remember that, if you testify that you can only sit 15 minutes at a time and then sit in agony through a 45 minute hearing, the Judge will think that you are lying.

THINK “HEAD TO TOE” WHEN DESCRIBING YOUR PROBLEMS. You will be nervous when you testify. This is natural. One way to be sure that you tell the Judge about all your problems is to describe them from “head to toe,” that is, start at your head and describe your difficulties going down your body.

BE PREPARED TO GIVE ESTIMATES ABOUT YOUR ABILITIES/LIMITATIONS. You may be asked to give estimates about your abilities and limitations. For example, you may be asked how far can you walk and how long you can you stand. The Judge is looking for an average. We know that every day is different and that your abilities and limitations may vary on a given day.

Notwithstanding, you should be prepared to answer some or all of these questions:

How much can you lift? In other words, how much can you lift comfortably without a great deal of pain.

How far can you walk? In terms of city blocks, how far you can walk at one time without a great deal of pain.

How long can you stand? In other words, how long can you stand without a great deal of pain before you need to sit.

How long can you sit? In other words, how long can you sit comfortably and before you have to get up.

BE PREPARED TO EXPLAIN WHY YOU STOPPED WORKING AND WHEN. Judges frequently ask why you stopped working and when. An answer such as: “Because my health would not let me continue” does not tell the Judge why you stopped. An answer such as: “Because I had too much pain in my legs” provides useful information that can help the Judge decide your claim.

THINK ABOUT NON-WORK ACTIVITIES AND HOBBIES. Judges expect that you will testify that you cannot work. For that reason, they try to find out indirectly whether you are able to work.

If you testify that you cannot concentrate long enough to hold a job, the Judge may whether you like to read or attend church services. If you testify that you read several hours each day, or spend all day in Church on Sunday, the Judge likely will conclude that your ability to concentrate is greater than you are claiming. Be prepared to describe what you do on an average day from the time that you wake up until the time that you go to sleep.

BE FLEXIBLE AND TRUST OUR EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR JUDGE.

BRING ALL YOUR MEDICATIONS TO THE HEARING. Please bring ALL your medications to the hearing. If you are taking a medication that must be refrigerated, bring the medication box and NOT the medication itself.

ARRIVE EARLY FOR YOUR HEARING. Please get to the place where the hearing will be held about 30 minutes before the hearing and sign in. You will be subject to a comprehensive search of your person and belongings. Do not carry into the place of the hearing any object that could be considered to be dangerous (such as a legally registered hand gun).

Many hearings are held in the Social Security Hearings Office which is in the Federal Building, 100 State Street, 4th Floor (Room 4140), between Church and Andrews Streets, in the City of Rochester (ZIP 14614). On street parking is very difficult in that area and WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT YOU PARK AT A PARKING METER NEAR THE BUILDING. There are surface and parking garages in the area of the Building including the Sister Cities Garage.

Some hearings are held in one of two Social Security District Offices. The “City” District Office is located at 200 East Main Street, 3rd Floor, in the City of Rochester (ZIP 14604). On street parking is very difficult in that area and WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THAT YOU PARK AT A PARKING METER NEAR THE BUILDING. There are surface and parking garages in the area of the Building including the Mortimer Street Garage and the South Avenue Garage.

The “Suburban” District Office is located in the Kohl’s Plaza, 4050 West Ridge Road, 2nd Floor Conference Room, in the Town of Greece (ZIP 14626). There is free surface parking at this District Office.

We look forward to presenting your case to the Judge.

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