What Will the Judge Use to Decide My Case?

If you are going to a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ), it is because your earlier applications for disability benefits were denied. These earlier stages are called the “Initial Application” and “Reconsideration” applications, respectively. At this time, you are at the hearing stage of your claim where an ALJ will review your case, see and speak with you in person, and make a decision about whether the earlier decisions denying your claim should be upheld. Note that the judge is not bound by the earlier decisions made by Social Security denying your claim. Rather, the judge is empowered to look at your case anew without adopting the findings of the earlier denials.

As with all legal matters, evidence is important for proving your case. In a Social Security disability case, the most important evidence in your case are your medical records from your doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, etc. If not for this kind of evidence, any person could state that they are suffering and cannot work. Medical records, diagnoses, X-rays, MRIs, and lab reports all substantiate your claims of disability, making it easier for the judge to find that you are disabled. For this reason, it is very important that you maintain regular contact with your legal representative and keep them fully informed of all doctors you see and treatments that you receive.

The ALJ will also consider your testimony at the hearing where your attorney will assist you in describing to the judge how your disabilities affect you on a daily basis and why they prevent you from working. In certain cases, such as where the claimant has difficulty communicating, the judge will also consider the statements of witnesses who can better describe the claimant’s conditions. Finally, the judge will consider the testimony of medical experts, if they are in attendance, and of the vocational expert.

The most important thing is to be honest and forthright with the judge. It is against the law to lie to the judge, and he/she can quickly identify claimants who are exaggerating their conditions. Instead, think of the hearing as an opportunity to have an honest discussion with the judge about the difficulties that you are experiencing and how they prevent you from working.