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Testifying at your SS Disability Hearing

April 15, 2015 Blog

You can expect a few questions about your physical limitations at your Social Security disability hearing. How far can you walk? How much can you lift? How long can you stand? How long can you sit? You must always give the judge a genuine estimate of what you are and are not capable of, and be sure to provide as much details as possible using several examples. The more detailed and specific answers you provide to the judge, the easier it is for him or her to understand your testimony about your limitations and how they interfere with your ability to work.

You must give the Judge a genuine estimate of what you can do.  So it is important to think about how to answer these questions before your hearing.  What the Judge really wants to know is how long you can do the activity in a work setting during an 8 hour work day and a 40 hour work week.  Unfortunately, the judge doesn’t usually make that clear.  You should not interpret the question to mean “how much sitting/walking/standing/lifting can you do before you are in so much pain that you must go home and go to bed?”

the usual advise of “Don’t volunteer” does not apply.  Lawyers often tell their clients “Don’t volunteer any information” when they are about to testify in court.  In Social Security hearings, this rule doesw not apply.  If you don’t “volunteer” information, you will not give the judge the facts needed to decide that case in your favor.

Provide lots of details.  Answer as though talking with a friend.  If a friend asks you how far you can walk, you probably start thinking of places you have walked to recently, how you felt when you got there, whether you had to stop and rest along the way, and so forth.  You are likely to answer your friend’s question by giving one or more examples of walking someplace recently.  If the judge asks this question, answer it the same way.  Talk to the judge the same way that you would talk to an old friend by giving important information, good examples and some relevant details.

Questions about sitting may be a trap.  Make sure to provide details.  For example, you may be able to sit for approximately twenty minutes but then need to stand and walk around for ten minutes.  Or you may be able to sit for one hour but then need to go lay down and rest for half an hour.  This shows that you can sit for a certain amount of time but also provides the judge with information about how long it will take you to recuperate once you have sat still for a certain amount of time. Make sure to tell the judge what you need to do after you have sat fr a certain period of time.  It is useful to provide information about what you need to do after sitting for a while. Can you sit for a while and then stand up, stretch, and sit back down and continue working? Do you need to alternate sitting and standing?  Can you alternate sitting and standing at a work station all day long? Do you need to walk around after sitting or standing in one place? If so, how often do you need to walk around? How long do you need to walk around each time?

Most jobs give breaks from work every couple of hours. Do you need extra breaks from work? What do you need to do on such a break?  Sit? Walk around?  Lie down? Sit in a recliner? How often during the workday do you need such breaks? How long should each break be?  Be prepared with an estimate.  The judge or your lawyer may ask you how long out of an 8-hour working day you can sit. What the judge needs to know is the total length of time during an entire 8-hour working day that you are capable of sitting, even though sitting is in short stretches.  The judge may also want to know the same about standing.  You’re going to have to think about this before the hearing so that you can give a realistic estimate.  Be prepared, though, for the judge to ask you for your estimate of how many days out of a month are good days and how many days are bad days.  A lot of people answer such questions as, “well, I never counted them.” Count them.  The judge will need this information.

In Summary to give good testimony about your limitations, it is really important for you to know yourself, know your limitations, and neither exaggerate nor minimize them.  This is hard to do.  You will need to think about
it, perhaps discuss your limitations with family members and definitely discuss these limitations with your attorney before the hearing.  The more that you can provide, the easier it is for the judge to understand your  testimony about your limitations and how they interfere with your ability to work.