How should I prepare for my SSA Disability Interview?
How to get ready for your initial disability interview
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach
An applicant can file a claim for Social Security Disability benefits online, via email, in-person, or over the phone, but that is only the beginning of the process. The local Social Security office will want more information and will usually call the applicant to set up a time to conduct an interview – either in-person or over the phone. Currently, the Social Security Administration is limiting in-person appointments, so it is likely that the disability interview will be conducted over the phone.
If you have filed a claim for Social Security Disability Income, this is your first opportunity to prove that your medical condition is so severe that you are unable to work, so it’s important that you don’t miss it and that you prepare carefully.
You should have personal identification, your application, and as much medical evidence as possible in front of you at the time of the appointment so that you can respond easily to questions. In addition to asking when you became disabled, Social Security will want information about the following:
Your level of education and job history over the past 15 years.
Social Security will want to know names and addresses of places you worked as well as dates of employment. They will also want to know your job responsibilities and what you were expected to do. It’s also a good idea to obtain statements from employers, family, and friends who are familiar with your condition and how it impacts your daily life.
If you have been denied disability don’t give up! Contact a Disability lawyer at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and get the benefits you deserve.
Social Security will ask the names and addresses of your medical providers and dates of visits, including clinics, hospitals and emergency room visits. They will also ask about medical tests you have undergone, treatments you have received and medications you’ve taken. It may also be helpful to obtain written statement from your doctors that contain detailed information about your diagnosis and how your limitations affect your ability to work.
Your living situation.
Social Security will want to know your marital status, if you have children, and who you live with. They may ask for contact information for people they can contact if they are unable to reach you. This information is important because it shows how you cope with your disability in daily life and can influence the benefit you receive.
In all likelihood you will be nervous, but there are a few things you can do – and not do – to make the interview easier. If the interview is in person:
- Arrive a few minutes early.
- Wear modest clothing appropriate for a professional setting.
- Leave children at home.
If the interview is over the phone:
- Wait by the phone 10 minutes before the scheduled call.
- Make sure the phone connection is reliable, preferably a landline.
- If using a cell phone, make sure the phone is fully charged and keep a charger nearby.
- Answer the phone is an area free of distractions (TV, radio, children, pets).
In either case, have all necessary forms with you at the time of the interview and study them ahead of time so that you can respond to questions easily.
Answer questions honestly and completely, but don’t exaggerate. Additionally, there are some things you should not do during an interview because they may hurt your case and result in a denial.
- Do not say or imply that you are able to work. Saying that the only reason you are not working is because no one will hire you could result in a direct denial.
- Do not exaggerate your symptoms. This will reduce your credibility and anything you say afterwards will not be believed.
- Do not state that you are not receiving ongoing treatment for your condition. You must continue to receive medical care; if you are not seeing a doctor regularly, Social Security may assume you are not disabled. If you have discontinued treatments because they were not effective, be prepared to explain.
- Do not give vague or unclear answers. Be specific. Say, “Pain radiates down both my legs when I walk” instead of saying, “I have pain all the time.”
- Do not bring up subjects that may hurt your claim, unless you are asked directly. This includes a history of alcohol or drug abuse or a criminal record.
The initial interview is basically a fact-finding process and no determination will be made at the time of the interview.
The Social Security claims representative will pass the information on to Disability Determination Services (DDS) to make a decision.
Even if the interview goes well, it’s important to remember that approximately two-thirds of initial applications are denied.
If your application is denied, you will have an opportunity to appeal and request a hearing before an administrative law judge. Disability hearings are stressful. For most applicants, it will be their first time before a judge or interacting with the legal system.
A judge will not ask the same questions of every applicant, but common questions include:
- Why do you think you are disabled?
- Why did you stop working at your current job?
- What would prevent you from returning to work at your previous job?
- What is the heaviest weight you can lift and how long can you sit, stand, and walk?
- Do you have good days and bad days and how often?
- Do you get help with daily tasks like dressing, cooking, cleaning, shopping? Who helps you?
- Has your condition become worse, better, or stayed the same since its date of onset?
A judge may also ask if there is anything you want them to know that hasn’t been discussed during the hearing.
This is simply an opportunity for you to provide more information, and it’s okay to say no. You should think about your answers to all these questions and prepare carefully.
- Be direct and concise and only answer the question being asked. Do not volunteer any additional information. The judge has an electronic file on your case and will ask you whatever questions they need to.
- Be honest. A hearing is your opportunity to explain your situation in detail.
- If you don’t understand a question, politely ask for it to be repeated.
- Do not complain to the judge about the claims process.
- Do not compare your case to another person who is receiving disability.
- Do not ask the judge if they have read certain medical evidence.
- Do not become angry or defensive. Remain calm and pleasant throughout the hearing.
Finally, do not go it alone, especially if your initial claim has been denied.
An experienced Social Security disability attorney knows the Social Security disability claim process inside out. They are familiar with judges and can evaluate your case, gather evidence, and prepare you for hearings, providing you with the necessary support to win your case.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you are not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
Try these links for further reading on this subject:
When Should I apply for Social Security Disability?
It helps to have a supportive doctor when you file for disability
What Information will I need to apply for SSDI?
Author: Attorney Lonnie Roach has been practicing law for over 29 years. He is Superlawyers rated by Thomson Reuters and is Top AV Preeminent® and Client Champion rated by Martindale Hubbell. Through his extensive litigation Mr. Roach obtained board certifications from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Lonnie is admitted to practice in the United States District Court - all Texas Districts and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Highly experienced in Long Term Disability denials and appeals governed by the “ERISA” Mr. Roach is a member of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Austin Bar Association, and is a past the director of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association (Director 1999-2005) Mr. Roach and all the members of Bemis, Roach & Reed have been active participants in the Travis County Lawyer referral service.
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