5 Tips About Testifying At Your Social Security Hearing

5 Tips about Testifying at Your Social Security Hearing

When you go to a Hearing on your Social Security Disability case, you will be there to provide expert testimony on the symptoms which you experience and which keep you from being able to maintain work on a full-time, ongoing, regular basis. We can help you by developing the medical record to support your complaints and alleged limitations. Of course we can also represent you at the Hearing.

Here are 5 Tips to keep in mind.

1. A Hearing is an informal proceeding during which you describe the problems you are having and how they limit your ability to perform work. There is no one right way to state things. The Judge will be expecting to hear a story that makes sense, so just relax and do the best you can to explain what health conditions have made you unable to work.

2. BE YOURSELF. Don’t try to memorize what you are going to say. Doing this will sound planned and unnatural. Just tell your story your way. Explain why you had to stop working if your medical condition made you stop working. If your disability has gotten worse over the years, say so. It is ok to say “I do not remember” in response to a question from the Judge if this is truly the case. You are the best expert on your symptoms.

3. TELL THE TRUTH. Do not minimize your symptoms in an effort to impress the Judge with your self-discipline or manliness. Likewise do not exaggerate your limitations by saying things like “I can’t do anything all day.” Be specific and give examples of activities that you are unable to do or unable to sustain. Remember, the Judge is determining what he or she thinks you would be able to do 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Avoid being led to agree with something that is untrue if it is untrue. Simply restate the correct information.

4. EXPLAIN YOR ANSWERS. In assessing your case the Judge needs to understand how your conditions affect you in terms of your ability to walk, stand, lift, carry, reach, handle, bend, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, etc. The Judge will also consider how well you remember, handle stress, deal with other people, pay attention and stay on task. Descriptions of your day to day challenges are helpful to illustrate your limitations. You should also be sure to tell the Judge about any side effects you have from your medications and about how you manage your pain or other symptoms through the day. Many people have good days and bad days. Describing these helps the Judge understand your situation.

5. BE RESPECTFUL. Dress is such a way as to show the Judge that you are taking him or her seriously. Clean simple clothing is fine. Avoid T-shirts with words, extremely revealing clothing and torn clothing. Do not lose your temper or take this as a time to rant about political issues. When answering a question, pause and think about your answer before giving it. Always give a verbal answer because the hearing is being audio recorded but not video recorded. You will need to say “my left shoulder hurts” rather than “I have pain here.”

Because we are a local law firm and have practiced in this area for over 30 years, we can tell you about the Judge before who you will appear and what he or she does in Hearings. We can help you before the Hearing by letting you know what kinds of questions to expect and how to put your best foot forward.

 

The Truth About Workers’ Comp Hearing Postponements

Your workers’ comp hearing just got postponed for the 3rd time and your attorney tells you it’s normal. How can this be right? Your claim was turned down by the insurance company or your weekly income benefits were suspended, and you’ve been without medical care and income for months and are in pain and on the verge of financial ruin while it seems the insurance company’s attorney keeps delaying your hearing without good reason.

What you want to know is; “Can the workers’ comp insurance company keep postponing your workers’ comp hearing without just cause?” The answer is: “No.”

The One Thing that Causes the Hearing to Be Postponed:

Your workers’ comp hearing cannot be postponed without just cause or reasonable legal excuse. However, the judge will postpone the first setting of your hearing on the grounds that discovery (the gathering of information or evidence through interrogatories, requests for production, depositions etc.) can’t be completed by the hearing date, which is usually set within 30 to 45 days from the hearing request.  The discovery methods used in workers’ comp cases are the same methods used in civil cases. But in civil cases you get 6 months of discovery before your trial date is set. In workers’ comp cases, you don’t get a fixed period of discovery before the hearing date is set. Therefore, you pretty much are guaranteed that your hearing will be postponed a few times while discovery is going on.   After the first setting, however, the employer and its insurance company must have a legal excuse to postpone the hearing.  A legal excuse would include a legal conflict of the insurance company attorney – another hearing on the same day as yours in a different venue that was requested before yours, or a medical request to a hospital or doctor on your case that has yet to be responded to.  A majority of judges will require the attorneys to conduct a telephone conference call and provide proof of their reasons for requesting a postponement of the hearing before making a decision granting or denying the postponement.

Keep in mind that written discovery such as interrogatories, requests for admission and requests for production of documents can’t be sent until a hearing request is filed.  We send written discovery to the employer and insurance company at the same time the hearing request is filed.  Responses are due within 30 days. You and the employer’s representative may require additional time to gather your documents and evidence to respond to the written questions and extensions to respond to written discovery are routinely given.

We at Affleck & Gordon use our best practices to try to speed up the discovery process by having our medical evidence ready before requesting a hearing and by requesting the scheduling of our client’s deposition as soon as practicable. You may also help to speed up the discovery process and ultimately your hearing by providing information and documents as quickly as you can. If you have prior medical records or your medical history on a CD, you should also provide these to your attorney promptly, so your attorney can have any prior injuries or conditions addressed by your treating doctor.

Can Your Employer Fire You While On Workers’ Comp?

Surprisingly, yes. While you were home recuperating from your on-the-job injury, you may have thought you were safe from getting fired by your employer. Then came the registered letter in the mail notifying you that your employer was terminating your employment. But, wait a minute. Doesn’t your Georgia workers’ comp claim protect you from getting fired? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Some employers immediately fire the injured worker, and other employers have policies that keep you on the employment rolls for 13 to 26 weeks according to their regulations to see if you’re released to regular duty work during that time period.  If you’re not released to regular duty by a certain time period, you’re let go. That doesn’t mean your workers’ comp claim is over. Workers’ comp will continue to pay you lost wage benefits until your doctor releases you to return to regular duty work.

Now let’s consider what will happen to you if you already returned to work with restrictions and were fired for cause. Start a job search immediately.  Until you start a job search you can’t start the clock running on entitlement to lost wage benefits. You must begin a job search for suitable light duty work and keep track of your job search with the date you looked for work, the name of the employer, the position applied for, who you spoke to, if you filled out an application, and if you had an interview. To get your weekly lost wage benefits reinstated, the judge must find that your job search is continuous, sincere and done in good faith. You need to apply with at least 2 to 3 employers each week until your hearing and I recommend 3 to 5 employers and don’t stop looking even though it’s discouraging. If there are few places of business where you reside, you may be re-applying at the same businesses every 2 to 3 months until your hearing. If the business tells you to check back, please do so. It’s important to prove that you are giving your best efforts. You need to memorize your work restrictions or make several copies of it to attach to a job application. Today, most job applications are completed online and there may be no space to indicate your restrictions. But if there is, you need to be prepared to list your restrictions or to attach or download a copy of your restrictions. This is another necessary element to prove entitlement to lost wage benefits, although it may seem counterintuitive in looking for a job.

If you have questions about being fired while on workers’ comp benefits Affleck & Gordon offers a free consultation and our experienced workers’ comp attorneys are just a phone call 404-373-1649 or click away.