How to Answer Questions at Your Disability Hearing

Art: Robin Mead

Tips for getting ready for questions at your Social Security disability hearing.

Getting Ready For Your Hearing

If you have more than a month before your hearing, you do not need to be worrying about questions right now! There are way way way way (way way way way) more important things you can be doing to improve your chances. Check out Great Things to Do While You Wait for Your Disability Hearing.

If your hearing is less than a month away, now you may start thinking about questions.

The best way to approach questions at your hearing is to just be honest and be yourself. You know your story and your struggles better than anyone. You do not need to have any special knowledge of laws, policies or medical information. All you need to do is share your own personal experience in your own words.

Videos about Hearings

Disability Lawyer Jonathan Ginsberg has made 124 videos all about disability hearings! Highly recommended by many of our readers:

“I’m Nervous”

Many of our readers report that they became overly-stressed before their disability hearing. They wanted to find theย perfect thing to say, and they felt that if only they could find the perfect thing to say, they would get approved.

Some people become so distressed before a hearing, that their disability worsens.We encourage you to try to take care of yourself in the days and weeks leading up to your hearing.

It may help you to keep in mind: There is no such thing as the perfect answer that will get you approved. While your answers at your hearing may be a small help to your case, the final decision will be made based on the documents already in your file.

Also, remember: You are not on trial. This hearing was something you requested. Questions at a hearing are simply a chance for the judge to learn a little more about how your disability affects you in your everyday life.

Tricky Questions at Hearings

Some judge’s ask a lot of questions, and some don’t ask very few. Some of our readers report they didn’t even speak at their hearing at all. Many judges appreciate being given short, clear answers (don’t expect to tell your life story, you won’t have time).

Below are a few examples of common questions. You may not get asked these questions in these exact words, but the general topic may come up.

๐ŸŒž What Activities Do You Do?

Many disability lawyers recommend that when you mention an activity, you also explain if there are any limitations you have or if there is any way that someone assists you.

One easy way to do this is to ask yourself this: “How is this activity different now than it was before I became disabled?” If you would like some more ideas for answering this question: How To Describe Your Activities.

๐ŸŒž How Long Can You Stand/Sit/Walk?

Check out this great video by lawyer Jonathan Ginsberg: How Does Social Security Define Sitting, Standing and Walking?

๐ŸŒž Do You Take Care of Children or Pets?

Important: They are not asking you if you love your children. They are not asking if you care about your children. They are asking you if you can hold down a job as a nanny.

Tell the truth. If you are caring for children, it’s helpful to mention if there are any activities you need help with, anyone who assists you, any activities you cannot do, or any activities you cannot do as well as or for as long as you did before you became disabled.

๐ŸŒž Why Can’t You Work?

This is a complicated question, so it got it’s own page! How to Answer the Question: โ€œWhy Canโ€™t You Work?โ€

Four readers answer this question about lyme disease, fibromyalgia, back injury and mental health:ย Readers Answer: Why Canโ€™t You Work?

Disability Secrets Article:ย Why You Canโ€™t Work: What Not to Complain About at Your Disability Hearing

๐ŸŒž Can You Manage Your Own Finances?

This question may or may not come up. It sometimes comes up for people with: Serious mental illness, developmental disabilities, drug or alcohol abuse history, or significant cognitive problems.

This is a very tricky question. If you are asked about this, it is up to you how you want to answer.

If a judge decides that you cannot handle finances, then after your case is approved, you may not be allowed to manage your own disability money. You will need to select someone you trust to handle your disability money for you, or social security may appoint someone. This is called a Representative Payee.

It is probably worth mentioning that many people hate having a representative payee, and once you get one, it can be difficult to undo. Learn more about Representative Payees.

Tip: If your disabilities are primarily physical and you need physical help

More Questions!

Great articles written by disability lawyers with info and advice on:

Tips for Staying Consistent

Ideally, what you say at your hearing, will be generally similar to what you have written on your disability forms and all of this will be generally similar to what your doctors have written in your file.

Obviously, your symptoms may have changed over time, so it won’t be exactly the same.

Some disability lawyers recommend to try to avoid the words “always” and “never” and avoid saying you “can” or “cannot” do something. Of course, if something really and truly is “always” then it is fine to say “always”, but if there are exceptions, it may be more accurate to say “sometimes” or “usually” or “typically” or “when I am having symptoms”

Judges also appreciate consistency in appearance. If someone shows up to their hearing in a wheelchair, but nothing in their medical records mentions using a wheelchair, and there is no doctor’s prescription for one, this may cause the judge to question someone’s credibility.

“My Friend Said the Right Thing and Got Approved”ย 

Some people get very stressed before a hearing because they have a friend who says:

“The judge approved me because I said such-and-such during the hearing” or

“The judge approved me because he saw me in my wheelchair and felt sorry for me and was nice to me” or

“The judge liked me because he saw how hard I tried to keep working. He liked that I was a teacher because he used to be a teacher.”

These people are confused about why they got approved. They got judges who were nice people. And those judges may have liked them, and may have felt sorry for them, and may have felt their story was credible, and this may have been a small help, but this is not the reason they got approved.

The judge needs to make the final decision based on medical documents. They cannot just approve people they like and feel sorry for.

Optional: A Few Things You Can Do Before Your Hearing

๐ŸŒž Read Your Activities of Daily Living Form

The Activities of Daily Living Form is a form that you filled out when you first applied. You may have been asked to fill it out again during appeals. If you have copies of your records, it’s not a bad idea to look back and see what you wrote.

The judge will have a copy of what you wrote and may ask a few of the same questions. If your form is from several years ago, obviously some things may have changed in your life or health since then.

๐ŸŒž Look Over Your Work History Report

When you first applied you filled out a work history report and described your past jobs. This form is used to help with a set of rules called Medical Vocational Allowance or Grid Rules.

  • If you are under the age of 50, this is unlikely to matter.
  • If you are age 50-55, it may or may not matter. In many cases, these rules do not start to apply til age 55.
  • If you are age 55 or over, this form could make a difference for you.

It may be helpful to look through and make sure your answers about job duties and job titles were complete and accurate and will help your case.

If anything is missing or unclear, you and your lawyer may be able to submit updated or additional information. Learn more about: How to fill Out a Work History Report. Learn more about Using and Correcting Your Work History Before Your Hearing. If you have a lawyer, you can ask your lawyer to assist with this.

Learn More

What Happened the Day of Your Disability Hearing? – Stories from Readers

What Do You Think?ย 

Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.

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7 thoughts on “How to Answer Questions at Your Disability Hearing”

  1. Thanks for the advice from disability attorneys who say to avoid using words like “always” and “never”. My brother is most likely going to need a disability attorney for his son’s case. I’ll tell him to hire one but I’ll share these tips with him too.


  2. My judge asked me zero questions and I didn’t have a vocational expert present either. Just a medical expert. I’ve never heard of that. Any thoughts?


  3. Thank you for this page. I’m supposed to have my disability court date in the next few months. I’ve been denied 2x. I have saved the pages and will study it!!!!!

    I am completely overwhelmed by what is facing me in trying to get disability. But this site is a priceless lifeline. I am having great difficulty reading the advice because I immediately feel overwhelmed by my own despair…but today I am finally starting to read your info. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    I’ve just read a little bit so far and I can see it is so much more helpful than what my disability lawyer has shared with me.


  4. articles by disability lawyers were EXCEPTIONAL and especially the lists they gave! would have been helpful to me 15 yrs. ago.

    didn’t look at the other lins of info; just read article as; well done as usual ๐Ÿ˜‰

    thanks for helping everyone; hope others have helped you along the way as well.


  5. Yes I took my son to his first hearing yesterday I had IEP from school behavior reports from school and everything but the judge said she would need to get info from schools and doc , if I had everything do you think I will still have to wait for another hearing date to see if my son is approved or not it will be 2 yrs in Aug that I filed for him and on his IEP it states that he has disability but not no secondary disability if the judge see this can she make a decision or I will need to wait for another hearing date ? Please help me someone


    1. You probably will not need another hearing, but it is really important that the judge sees your son’s medical records and they get there quickly. The judge may only hold the case open for a short time, and after that they may make a decision even if important records are missing.

      You may wish to call the judges office to ask exactly which records they have and don’t have and then keep calling the school and doctors and keep following up until you are sure all important records are in his the file at the judge’s office.

      I hope it goes great for your family.


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