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Administrative Law Judge

The ALJ Hearing: Preparation

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It's best to be prepared for the kind of tough, skeptical questioning that a judge might ask. For example:

  • The judge will often ask about education, work history, work activity, daily activities, medications taken, doctors visited, treatment received, symptoms of impairments, and whether a claimant thinks she or he can do any work.
  • There may be a vocational expert at the hearing. "Just in case," think about the various jobs you may arguably be able to do, and be ready to explain why you could not do the work. For instance, if you are visually impaired but not legally blind, you will have to show the presence of other disabling conditions. Explain how you are prevented from working when the two are coupled together.
  • In case Social Security calls a doctor, become thoroughly familiar with all the medical records that Social Security has reviewed. Be ready to point out the portions of the records that support your claim of disability.
  • Many judges limit the time for a hearing. In case this happens to you, prioritize your evidence by giving each piece of evidence a number. It's easiest if number one is the most important evidence.

Practice saying your answers in front of a mirror so you can convey what you want the judge to know.

Be aware that the judge is likely to look at your physical demeanor when you enter and leave the room. He or she will also be trying to assess whether you are telling the truth when you make your statements.

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