TRICK QUESTIONS THE SSA JUDGE MIGHT ASK
WILL THE JUDGE ASK TRICK QUESTIONS DURING THE SSA HEARING?
Trick questions are not the norm in Social Security hearings. So, you don’t really need to worry about it. Most judges are not out to confuse, upset, or undermine you during your SSD hearing. However, there are some questions that can cause problems for you if you are not aware of how to answer them.
Most hearings start with some basic questions from the judge about whether or not you are working. You need to be clear on what date you are choosing as your alleged onset date of disability. Usually, this is the last day you worked a full time job. You also need to know whether or not you worked after that date. If you did, then you need to know how long you worked and how much money you made.
For example, after your last full time job, did you try to work for two weeks at a restaurant? If so, that would not change your onset date, but you should tell the judge you tried to work for two weeks. You should also know how much money you made at that work attempt. Additionally, you should be able to tell the judge why the job didn’t work out. Were you fired because you couldn’t get to work on time? Did you miss work during the two weeks due to your medical condition? Be able to explain why your short work attempt failed.
THE JUDGE WILL ASK ABOUT YOUR PAST WORK
The SSA judge will also usually ask you about your past work in the last 15 years. This does not include a job that only lasted a few days or a few weeks. Instead, the judge wants to know what your main jobs were. For example, if you worked as a nurse for 10 years, then the judge will ask you what you did as a nurse. Did you stand all day? Lift patients? Were you a nurse who spent most of her time in an operating room?
The judge will also want to know the amount of the heaviest thing you lifted on the job. For example, if you worked in a daycare, then you had to lift children. Or, if you work in an office, then you probably had to lift boxes of copy paper. The lifting requirements of your job is one of the most important things that you testify about. The amount you lift on a job is one of the elements that defines the type of a job you did.
If your past job required you to lift 100 pounds and you can no longer do that, then you cannot perform your past job. It is your burden to prove that your medical condition keeps you from working. First, you must demonstrate that you cannot perform your past work. Next, at the hearing, you must prove you cannot use any skills from your past work in another job. Once you prove that, the burden shifts to SSA to prove there are other jobs you can perform. Learn more about expert testimony about jobs at the SSA hearing.
TRICK QUESTION #1: CAN YOU DRIVE?
Some judges like to ask about your daily activities and then use your answer to show that you can work. One question that they will often ask is about your ability to drive. Think about it. Your ability to drive a car tells the judge a lot about you.
Sure, you can be disabled and still have the ability to drive. However, many people answer this question without telling the judge the problems that they have when they are driving. That is a mistake. If you can’t drive for more than 10 minutes due to back pain, then tell the judge that in your answer. Likewise, if you have foot pain and problems feeling or pushing the brake or gas pedal, then mention that.
If you have any other conditions that affect your driving, explain those. For example, some people have anxiety that keeps them from driving. Others have vision problems. Finally, there are some medical conditions, like seizures, that mean you shouldn’t drive. If you have a condition like that and state you drive, then the judge will think that your medical condition can’t be severe enough to prevent you from working.
TRICK QUESTION #2: DO YOU HAVE A PET?
Many judges ask this question during the hearing. This is another question that tells the judge a lot about you. For example, if you have a dog, then you must feed the dog. Chances are good that you must also walk the dog. If you simply state at the hearing that you have a dog and you care for him, then you have missed an opportunity to tell the judge about some of your problems.
For example, maybe another family member actually cares for the dog because you can’t walk the dog. Likewise, dog food is heavy. A large bag of dog food can weigh up to 40 pounds. Do you lift that in order to feed the dog? If you don’t tell the judge that you can’t feed the dog, then he will assume you can lift dog food. He might also assume you have no trouble bending over to fill the dog’s food bowl.
If you asked this question, make sure you are ready with an answer that shows your limits. You could state that you can’t walk the dog because of your back pain. Or, you could state that you don’t feed the dog because you can’t lift the dog food. Also, some people have dogs or other pets that are companion animals. If you have a pet for that purpose, make sure you explain that to the judge as well.
TRICK QUESTION #3: DO YOU TAKE CARE OF CHILDREN?
This is a question that can really cause you some problems, because taking care of children is a job. If you take care of your grandchild all day, for example, then you are doing a daycare job. You just might not be getting paid for it. Obviously, caring for a child for a couple of hours once a month is not a problem. But many people lose their hearing because they testify that they care for children all day.
Sometimes the judge will ask a parent about staying home and caring for small children. Once again, if you are caring for small children all day long, then that can be taken as your ability to do a daycare job. The best thing you can do at the hearing is explain to the judge that you need help as a parent. Perhaps your partner also cares for your children. Maybe they work a night shift, so they can be home to care for children during the day. Or, perhaps you have a parent or friend who comes over during the day to give you a break so you can rest.
If you testify at the hearing that you take care of a small child, like a toddler, all day long and you require no help to do so, then the judge will probably find you can work. Some people don’t tell the judge about their problems taking care of their child because they are afraid the judge will take the child away. Don’t worry about that. The SSA judge has no authority to remove your child from your home.
TRICK QUESTION #4: DO YOU TAKE YOUR MEDICATIONS?
The SSA judge can deny your claim if you refuse to take medications or you abuse your medications. When you have a doctor who gives you medications, you are supposed to take them. If the judge think you are abusing your prescription medication or taking illegal drugs, they also can deny your claim.
The only reason for not taking your prescription medications that the SSA will accept, is that you don’t have the money to pay for them. Therefore, if that is your reason for not taking your medications, then tell the judge. You should also tell the judge if you have tried numerous medications for your medical conditions. Likewise, tell the judge about side effects from taking medication.
If you abuse drugs or alcohol, then the SSA judge will examine your medical records to see if you are sober. During any period of time when you were not using alcohol or drugs, were your mental or physical conditions keeping you from work? If so, then your problems with drugs or alcohol will not prevent you from winning benefits.
However, if the SSA finds that the abuse of drugs or alcohol is your main reason for not working, then the judge will deny your case. You will not win benefits because the SSA will not pay benefits to those who abuse substances. Find out more about how alcohol and drug abuse effects your claim for SSD benefits.
TRICK QUESTION #5: DO YOU VOLUNTEER?
If you volunteer somewhere every week, then the judge is going to deny your case and state that you can work. Doing volunteer work, even if it isn’t for pay, is the same as being able to work. If you can volunteer, then why aren’t you working?
Many judges ask this question to find out what you can do during a 40 hour work week. Sometimes, people volunteer at their church or in a school for their children. Anything that you do like this can be seen as the equivalent of work. Especially if the hours that you are doing it are close to a work schedule.
One of the better answers to give at the hearing is stating you used to volunteer, but now you are not able to do so. For example, maybe you were a volunteer during a church function. If so, then you could state you had to give that up because you could not longer stand. Or, your anxiety prevents you from being around other people. Another option is to state that you used to be able to volunteer at your child’s school, but you had to quit.
You could state that you had to quit because you needed to lie down everyday. Or, perhaps you made mistakes during your volunteer time and couldn’t remember the names of the kids in the classroom. If you did volunteer work, then you want to explain to the judge why you can’t do it anymore.
TIPS FOR YOUR HEARING TESTIMONY
When you are giving your testimony at the hearing, tell the truth. If the judge or your attorney is asking you any of the above questions, then it is possible that the answer is already part of your medical record. For example, you don’t want to be stating that you don’t volunteer, if your doctor wrote down that you do.
Answer quickly. You only get about an hour for your hearing. The judge usually has five or six other hearings scheduled that day. If you go over time, then the judge gets behind. No judge wants to be behind. When you are asked a question, be ready with an answer. You know about your life. No one else does. You are the best person to testify about your symptoms and your daily activities.
Try to use numbers and examples when you testify. If you are asked how often you have a migraine, for example, and you use words like “a few times,” “sometimes,” or “all the time,” in your answer, then no one knows what you mean. It is much better to state, “I have migraines two times a week.” Everyone understands a number. But no one knows what you mean when you say the word “sometimes.”
The same is true with statements like “not very far” or “not very long.” If your attorney asks you how far you can walk and you say “not very far.” Does that answer the question? No. It is does not. You need to state how many minutes you can walk or how far you can walk, like 1/2 a block. The hearing is the time to be specific. Not vague.
WHAT WE DO TO HELP YOU WIN BENEFITS
You do not need to apply for SSDI and SSI benefits by yourself. You can always call our law firm and we will help you win benefits. There is no charge to call us. We can help you file your SSD and SSI application. Also, we can help you appeal every SSA denial. For example, our attorneys and staff can:
- Send you the paperwork you need to become our client
- Help you file your application for SSD and SSI benefits
- Inform the SSA that they should pay you benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Rules
- Request an appeal if you receive an initial denial from DDS
- Help you confirm your SSA doctor exam
- Request a Hearing with an SSA judge
- Prepare you to testify at your ALJ hearing
- Represent you at your hearing and question the expert witnesses
- Read more about expert testimony about jobs
- Learn more about medical expert testimony
- Request review of an SSA decision with the Appeals Council
- Request review of an Appeals Council denial in Federal Court
If you file your application for benefits online on Social Security’s website, then you have 6 months to complete the application. Once you submit your application online, the SSA sends you an application summary in the mail. You must sign the summary and mail it back. If you don’t send it back, then the SSA will not process your application. Sign it and send it back as soon as you can.
WORK WITH YOUR LAWYER ON HEARING PREPARATION
Prior to your hearing, work with your lawyer. Ask you lawyer about trick questions or for tips on how to answer hearing questions. Also, work with your lawyer to get all of your medical records. In addition to medical records, your lawyer may request other evidence. For example, your lawyer may want a letter from your doctor or former employer. Your lawyer may want to send in letters from your family or friends. Additionally, there may be other forms that your doctor can complete on your behalf. While these records are only additions to what is already in your SSA file, they can provide valuable support for your SSD and SSI claim.
With your file complete, meet with your lawyer prior to your hearing. This meeting provides crucial information regarding your claim and the court process. Your meeting is likely the final stage before going to your hearing, so make sure to ask your lawyer any questions at that time.
Finally, practice your answers. You can have a family member ask you questions and you can practice your answer in advance. Preparing for the hearing and knowing your answer to any trick questions is the very best way to receive SSD benefits. If you need a lawyer to help you at your ALJ hearing, please contact Cannon Disability Law. We offer a free review of your case.
HIRE OUR EXPERT ATTORNEYS & LEGAL STAFF
If you need help answering questions at your hearing, then you have found the right law firm. Call us and we will help you figure out an answer to any trick questions. You can learn more about the attorneys at our law firm on our About Us page.
For example, you may want to know that Dianna Cannon has been helping her clients win Social Security cases for over thirty years. Additionally, Brett Bunkall and Andria Summers have also won thousands of SSDI and SSI cases. Together, in the past 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases for our clients. Our experts can help you file for SSI benefits using the SSA’s website. Likewise, if you need an appeal, we can help you do that too.
Don’t worry. If you have questions about your hearing, then we will answer them. You can also learn more about SSA’s appeal forms. Call us today for help winning your Social Security benefits. Hire the law firm that has over 30 years of legal experience winning SSD cases. Call today. There is no attorney fee for you to pay unless we win your SSD benefits. Put our legal experience to work for you.