Hill & Ponton, P.A.

Video Blog – SS Hearing Level – What To Do

Natalia Jofre: Hello and welcome to Hill & Ponton’s disability blog. I’m Natalia Jofre, our Social Security Section Director.
Shelly Mark: I am Shelly Mark. I am our Senior Social Security Attorney.
Natalia Jofre: The last blog we talked about the hearing level, and basically once you get to this level, this is what social security would call the third level of your case. In other words, you’ve been denied at the initial level, you were denied at the reconsideration level, you filed an appeal, you’re now at the hearing level, and basically they’ve sent you a letter that says that they’ve received your appeal. Your case is with the hearing office, and it’s going to take, on average, 24 months to get a hearing date. They’re going to send you a letter letting you know that they got it, and that they’re going to notify you within 65 days of your hearing date. We basically told you that doesn’t mean your hearing is going to be in 65 days. It means that they’re just going to give you 65 days notice once they are ready to schedule it, which will really mean about 24 months later.
Now that the case is pending, what’s important to do at the hearing level?
Shelly Mark: Like we talked about, from the client’s standpoint, it’s really important to maintain their doctors appointments. Make sure they’re getting any kind of testing that they would need. If they have a back injury, but their MRIs are from 2010, and they have insurance, they might just want go ahead and ask their doctors to update some of their tests. They need to make sure their records are up to date and make sure that their personal information, their contact information, their address is up to date. That way when they are scheduled for a hearing, they’ll actually be ready for it.
Natalia Jofre: Yeah. The other thing that social security is going to do, or the hearing office is going to do, is they’re going to send the claim and some forms to complete and to submit.
Shelly Mark: Right.
Natalia Jofre: They range, I would say, the first one, well, they’re all important, but there’s one regarding medication. When you’re completing that form, I think that one of the important things that people tend to bypass is they don’t put all of their current medications or they include medications they’re no longer taking. Can’t that create problems then at the hearing?
Shelly Mark: Yeah. It can. Any discrepancies on the forms can really create issues at hearing because even though it may be just a very honest mistake or just a misunderstanding, it can create a credibility issue. Meaning that if the person’s saying on their daily living activities form that they’re able to take the dog out and walk the dog, and take the trash out, and clean the house, and all of these things, and then we get to a hearing and the judge asks them in the hearing, “Do you do any cleaning?” And they say, “No. I’m unable to do any cleaning of any kind.” I have had judges say, “Well, that’s not what your form says that you submitted.”
You want to be really careful when you’re answering all of those forms that you do it very accurately and with knowledge of what’s supposed to be on the forms.
Natalia Jofre: Yeah. What’s your reality. Don’t try to make it so severe where I never do anything. I never go to the store. I never cook. I mean, because then that’s going to open the door for, “If you never cook, how do you eat? What do you eat? Who prepares your meals? How often? How do you get fed?” Same thing with the store. I mean, “Where’s your stuff coming from, then? Does somebody go out? Do you have a personal shopper? Do you have a child or a sibling or someone that comes and does your shopping for you?”
You have to be mindful of when I say this, what is the consequence of that. Judges live in the real world too so they’re looking for realistic answers.
Shelly Mark: Mm-hmm (affirmative). On the flip side of what Natalia’s saying, if you are able to clean your house and you’re filling your forms out, what I try to tell people is that when you answer the questions, answer them, but make sure that you include any accommodations that you make for yourself. “Yes, I clean my house,” is one answer. Another answer that may be the exact same, but more appropriate, would be, “Yes, I clean my house for an hour and then I have to rest for two hours.” Or, “Yes, I clean my house, but it takes me three days, where it used to take me four hours.”
Natalia Jofre: Right.
Shelly Mark: You want to make sure that you’re putting the accommodations that you’re having to make for yourself to be able to do those activities.
Natalia Jofre: Yeah. There’s other forms, very specific forms, that get issued at the hearing level that you have to complete and submit, so we’ll talk about specifics on those forms in our next blog.
Shelly Mark: Okay.
Natalia Jofre: Alright. Thanks for being with us today. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to contact our office or visit our website.
Shelly Mark: Thank you.