When you are preparing for a disability hearing with your Indianapolis Social Security disability lawyer, he or she will tell you that the decision-maker at that hearing will be an Administrative Law Judge, or ALJ. The ALJ may not run the hearing like a courtroom—i.e. the ALJ doesn’t wear robes, expect you to stand upon his or her entrance, or even have a gavel—but as the person presiding over your hearing, respect should be accorded as if it were a courtroom.
The ALJ’s sole purpose at the hearing is to decide whether or not you are entitled to disability benefits, a decision that favors the claimant more than fifty percent of the time, so this is important. Keep in mind that the ALJ’s decision is independent of past decisions, i.e. it doesn’t matter that your initial application was denied twice already. Since the odds are good, this is an important step in your appeal.
When you see the ALJ, he or she will not cross-examine you like an opposing attorney. In fact, there will be nobody present who is “against” you; this hearing is fact-finding mission only, not an adversarial hearing. The ALJ is only interested in the facts about your claim, and is neither “for” nor “against” you. It’s important to keep this in mind, especially if, by this point, you’re so frustrated with the entire Social Security system for stringing you along and making you fight so hard for what you deserve that you might be prone to speak or act out. The ALJ judge knows that the system is frustrating and time-consuming, and will appreciate not being the misplaced target of your anger.
It’s also not a good idea to ask the ALJ why your case has taken so long, or why your claim has been denied multiple times. The ALJ is fully aware of the flaws in the appeals system (maybe that’s why they decide favorably so often), and doesn’t need to hear explanations—or blame—from you. After all, the ALJ is not responsible for the system’s flaws.
If you’d like advice on how to handle your disability hearing with an ALJ, please fill out the form on this page to speak with Indianapolis Social Security Disability Lawyer Martin Barnes.