In our last post, we presented general guidelines for preparing for a disability hearing before an administrative law judge. In this post, we will cover specific pointers for ensuring that the claimant can present oral testimony that is clear, persuasive and effective.
The most important rule is to "tell the truth." Give testimony plainly and clearly. Exaggerations can be as detrimental as an outright falsehood because most exaggerations cannot withstand cross-examination by the ALJ. A claimant must take pains to understand the case by reviewing the medical record. A claimant is not required to testify with the same level of expertise as a physician, but the testimony should nevertheless clearly express the claimant's understanding of the medical and employment issues the disability claim rests.
The best way to convey this understanding is to carefully consider your daily activities before and after the disability occurred. The claimant must be able to provide a detailed description of daily activities and how the disabling condition affects those activities. For example, if chronic pain is an important part of the case, the claimant must be able to describe how the pain affects everyday activities. Keeping a detailed diary of daily activities is one very effect way to achieve this end. Another tool is a list of activities that were once enjoyable but are now foreclosed by pain. Finally, a claimant must express a clear wish to be working and earning a living instead of merely collecting disability benefits.
Anyone whose initial claim for benefits has been denied may wish to consult an attorney experienced in handling disability claims. A knowledgeable attorney can assist in organizing and presenting evidence and, perhaps most importantly, suggest ways of presenting oral testimony.