7 steps you can take to prepare for your Social Security disability hearing
1. Keep track of dates of all medical treatment.
It is not necessary to telephone us to report routine medical care. But do keep track of the dates of all medical treatment between now and the time of your disability hearing. Before your hearing, we will send you a form to complete with all of the medical care you have received since you first applied for Social Security disability benefits.
2. Get contact information for all treating health care professionals.
Because it is so important our office has complete names and addresses of all treating sources, here is something you can do that will really help: Gather business cards for all the doctors, therapists, etc., who you see and use them to complete the form we will send you.
3. Follow through with prescribed medical treatment.
Even if you are disabled, you can be denied Social Security disability benefits if you refuse to follow treatment prescribed by your treating doctor. However, denials on this ground are uncommon. The treatment must clearly be expected to restore your ability to work.
You can, or course, refuse treatment with good reason. Good reasons include:
- The treatment is contrary to your religion;
- The treatment is cataract surgery and you have a severe loss of vision in the other eye that cannot be improved;
- You previously had unsuccessful surgery and the same surgery is being recommended again;
- The treatment is very risky;
- The treatment involves an amputation;
- The treatment is surgery and you have an intense fear of surgery;
- You cannot afford the treatment and free treatment is unavailable;
- Another doctor who has treated you advises against the treatment.
In addition, poor compliance with medical advice may have an adverse effect on your credibility at the disability hearing. The administrative law judge may conclude that you must not be as disabled as you claim to be, otherwise you would do a better job of following the prescribed treatment.
4. Keep a symptom diary
Keeping a daily diary of your pain and other symptoms until the time of the hearing is excellent preparation for hearing testimony. A diary can be especially helpful if your health problems are episodic, such as seizures, or headaches, or if you have good and bad days. It will help quantify your problems.
You can use a notebook to keep track of daily symptoms. Sometimes a monthly wall calendar can be a good way to record bad days—days that you would not be going to work if you had a job.
5. Think about who might be good witnesses
Consider who might be good witnesses at your disability hearing—people who know you well, who are familiar with all the problems you have been suffering lately, and who can describe them for the judge. Most people use as witnesses their spouse, other family members, or a close friend because usually they are the ones who know them the best.
Such witnesses are fine. But sometimes a judge will think that close friends or family members bend over backwards to help a claimant. Therefore, often the very best witnesses are people who are not as close and who might be considered more objective. Former supervisors, coworkers, social workers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, ministers, landlords, and neighbors are possible choices. If you have an idea for having someone like this to be a witness, talk to me about it when you receive a letter notifying you of your hearing date.
6. Get letters from friends and relatives about your disability
Letters from friends, relatives and other people can be very useful in a disability case. As a rule, the more such letters you have, the better. I can provide directions to give your friends and relatives about how to prepare such a letter.
7. Telephone our law office when—
- There is a dramatic change in your condition—for the worse or the better.
- Your doctor gives you a new diagnosis of your medical condition.
- You are hospitalized.
- You go back to work.
- You are thinking about going to work full-time or part-time.
- You change your address and/or telephone.
- Someone from the Social Security Administration contacts you.
- You get a letter from the Social Security Administration that you do not understand.
- You get a Notice of Hearing without first getting a letter from us telling you the date of your hearing.
- You get a form from the judge to be completed by your doctor.
More help for your Social Security disability hearing
We work closely with our Social Security disability clients as their hearings approach. Solid preparation is the key to presenting the best case possible.
If you want our assistance along the route to your disability hearing, give me a brief description of your claim using the Claim Evaluation Form to the right. Or you may contact us at:
Bulman Law Associates
Montana Social Security disability attorneys
416 East Pine Street
Missoula, Montana 59802