Help !!! SSD Admin. Law Judge Appt.

Discussion in 'Fibromyalgia Main Forum' started by pookiebyrd, Sep 21, 2003.

  1. pookiebyrd

    pookiebyrd New Member

    Tuesday I go before the administrative law judge, doctor and vocational counselor to plead my case for disability.. anyone have any words of suggestion or hope for me.. I am very nervous, because I am so easily confused and have a hard time putting how I feel into words.


    [This Message was Edited on 09/21/2003]
  2. dndoriginal

    dndoriginal Guest

    Hi Pookie,
    First let me congrats! You are going to be one step closer to winning your case. If I were you I would take some time right now and review your own thoughts and make notes or rear the ones you have again. Have you wrote out a diary of how your illness has "altered" your life? How about a day in your life on a BAD day, from the time you get up until you finally crash? I would even read the defination of disability according to SSA and make sure if your are asked to speak "use the KEY terms, and exact phrases that are used in the defination. What about calling your legal support person for some phone reassurance? Ask them if they feel confident and if they say yes (I hope so) then ask why. If they sound less than confident, ASK WHY! You can still get more material, records,statements from friends and family, ect.... Yes it's coming down to it, but I think once you review your own case you will feel somewhat more empowered. The night before, just rest and lay out your sweatpants! You have done all you could to this point and you should be proud of yourself for being so brave. This is not an easy road, but you are moving forward everyday trying to secure your own future! It is a noble task and you are accomplishing it while in pain. I applaud you and I wish you the very best outcome!
    Remember if this one doesn't go your way... APPEAL! His say is not final. Do it quickly while you still have the momentum.
    This is where I finally won my case after 3 years.
    Best of luck and let us know how it goes.
    Oh, I just thought, you should have someone drive you and help you in and out of your chair, if you don't already have someone doing that. And a final suggestion, even if you are having a "GOOD" day, DON'T SHOW IT. Show the judge what you look like on your worst day. I am not suggesting you lie but if you act "well", you must have already been subjected to the questioning looks. The rest of us have.
    I hope you catch my drift........
    Good Luck and let us know. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you well! :)

  3. Tunes

    Tunes New Member

    Hi Pookie,

    Being that your are sheduled to appear before an ALJ, I would assume you've gone through all the previous rigamarole.

    First of all, relax if you can. I looked at your profile, and it seems to me you have plenty which has gone on in your health life. Being up tight, doesn't help you nor any of us. It's easier said than done, that I realize too.

    The hearing I had before and ALJ, was informal. Believe all are. I did have a lawyer, and I must admit that nervousness does come with the experience, no matter how hard we try, but do try. It's not like a judge, jury, executioner type thing. He will or should have, copies of your medical condition(s) before him. He has reviewed them. Or she.

    If you don't have an attorney, hopefully you have documentation to bring with you. i.e. Records of meds. from the pharmacy, copies of tests and results, doctors diagnosis, etc.

    The lawyer I had, gave me a crash course on what not to do and do. For instance: dress nicely, but conservatively. (no tank tops, shorts, heals, that kind of thing) don't wear makeup. Don't wear lots of jewelry. Don't get your hair done.

    After this crash course, I felt a little non-plussed. I said, what is this, a performance? I don't act. What you see is what you get. What I have, I have, and it's documented over years. I suppose I felt this way, as I don't dress flashy to begin with, don't dress or under dress excessively either way, don't wear a lot of make up, don't wear a lot of jewelry and don't get my hair done. However, what little self-esteem, and self-respect I have, I'm going to try to hang on to. I had no intention of playing some game whereby I went to that hearing, looking like I was shot at and hit several times. Or something the cat dragged in. If however, I appear that way normally to the eyes of others, so be it!

    I've always been one to try to hide the way I'm feeling. Don't know why, just am that way. Bottom line was, I just can not be anything other than I am.

    Is the doctor and vocational counselor appearing with you, on your behalf? If so, that's helpful.

    Oh, another thing the lawyer said, was use the word "pain" several times.

    I don't think I said the word once. The ALJ was nice in my hearing. He probed, and unwittingly touched on a button which then caused an indepth spewed out topic answer which I never told my lawyer about nor did I put on the myriads of paperwork. The probing wasn't harsh, but they have a job to do to. When answering, the court stenographer gasped and the room became even more quiet. After that question, and my answer, the judge didn't have anything further to ask. The lawyer started asking his questions, and I think the judge had heard enough.

    We are all individuals with different ailments, which we suffer with on a day to day basis. Basically, guess that's all I can say. Remember.. the judge, has a job to do, and like most human's, puts his/her pants on one leg at a time. No matter what the titled status of another is, no one is better or worse than you as a human being. Give respect yes, but that is reciprocal. You are to be respected as well. That levels the playing field.

    Just be yourself. Tell it like it is, no fancy answers.

    Hope this helps you. And .. should you receive an "unfavorable decision" get an appeal in right away! Don't give up.

    I'll be there in spirit, right beside you. You are not alone.

    Take care and God Bless,

  4. suzbee

    suzbee New Member

    Hi, pookie,

    I just had my hearing before the judge, etc., about a month ago. Still waiting for a decision.

    DNDORIGINAL made some good suggestions. For my hearing I did not dress up; neither did I go as a slob. Clean and unadorned. My husband drove me to the hearing and testified on my behalf. I will admit that I took none of my meds that morning before the hearing.

    They may ask you to certify by signature that you actually do take all the meds on the list you may have provided earlier. Keep a list of them in your pocket so you don't forget any -- they may leave something out by accident, or you may have forgotten to put one on the original list.

    At the beginning of the hearing, why don't you just say what you said to the board here? "I am very nervous, because I am so easily confused and have a hard time putting how I feel into words."

    Don't allow anyone to ask you more than one question at a time. If someone strings two or three questions together, politely ask them to please ask you one question at a time. Then shut your mouth and wait for them to see if they can even remember what they asked you. ;-)

    If you don't quite understand what kind of information the question is asking for, just say so. "I'm not sure I understand what you're asking. Could you please rephrase that?"

    Take your time to answer. You have struggled hard to get a hearing and you deserve to be heard.

    Don't be disheartened by facial expressions. The judge, the vocational expert, and the recording clerk all had poker faces, and did not *appear* very sympathetic at all. They were not nasty or anything, just all business.

    Just give 'em the facts, ALL of them, but don't belabor the point with repetitive details. But remember that the hearing is all about whether you can work or not. When they asked me if my medications had affected my life negatively in any way, I burst out spontaneously with, "Prozac has pretty much ruined my sex life ... (oops, that has nothing to do with work) ... and it has flattened my creativity -- creativity is what my work was all about." (eeeep!!! lol)

    They may ask you what you do all day. How often you drive anywhere by yourself, and how far. What kind of social activities you are involved in. (Social? What's that?) Do you go to the movies or church, etc., and how long can you sit through something like that. How far can you walk before your symptoms get the best of you. Best to think that over beforehand.

    It was 90 miles to my hearing. They wanted to know if we had to stop along the way, and how many times, and for what. Yes, twice, once to use the bathroom and once for something to eat.

    Ah. Don't tell them more than what they want to know.

    It might help to give them a word picture about how you feel. For example, they asked me how I hurt (wondering how long I could type or use a computer), and among several other things, I laid my hand out on the table, and pantomimed whacking each joint with a hammer, saying, "Imagine someone pounding all your joints with a hammer and think about what that might feel like the following day. Then imagine living with that every day." They looked at me rather sourly, but they got the point.

    Try not to exaggerate. They have to listen to this stuff all day long, and probably know immediately when someone is pushing the envelope. On the other hand, remember that all this pain and fatigue is commonplace to you (foreign to them), and you have to put yourself in their shoes to make them understand how miserable you are.

    Oh, yes. Keep a close eye on your attorney, if you have one, and take cues from him/her.

    After the hearing, go give yourself a special treat for getting through it. Yes. Yes!!

    Jeez, am I getting prolific or what... had a moment of energy there ... wish I could package the stuff. Gonna go soak my hands now ...

    Good luck to you, let us know how it goes.

  5. pookiebyrd

    pookiebyrd New Member

    I want to thank you all for your kind words and suggestions, I have been at this for 2years this time and am hoping that tomorrow goes well.. I will let you know how things go.... anyone else who has any suggestions or thoughts please feel free to post..

  6. Dara

    Dara New Member

    I never had to appear before the ALJ so I really can't give you any tips on what to do or not to do. I did read the posting from "Tunes" and how she described herself and her feelings on the subject, sounds just like me. One of the reasons I didn't want to appear in front of the judge is that I have the habit of trying to make things appear better than what they are. I think it's just from years of being sick and not wanting everyone to know about it. It would have been very hard for me to appear in front of a judge and try to look and act sick if I was having a good day. If I was having a really bad day, I wonder if I could have even shown up for my appointment with the judge. I would suggest to just be yourself and show respect for the position that the judge is in. I could be way off base here, but I would think that the judge would admire that someone who is sick is at least trying to look and act as normal as possible. I do agree that you should let him know how you feel on your worse days and how it would affect your ability to hold down a job.

    Good luck to you, I'll be anxious to hear how it went. I have good thoughts for you.

  7. Sissy70

    Sissy70 New Member

    I can't really think of anything to add. Everyone else has already said it so well. When I went in front of the ALJ the only questions she had for me were based on why I needed to use a power chair to get around. I guess disability had denied me the other two times, because they couldn't understand why I needed the power chair. Once I explained to her that walking was very hard to do with a dislocated hip and that if I had to walk further than one block to get somewhere I would never manage it. Then my lawyer asked me some questions about what I do during the day and some questions about my disorder and then that was it. My lawyer knew when we left that I had won my case. Of course we didn't get the letter in the mail until four months later verifying this fact. Just answer the questions honestly and the other posters were right, base your answers on your bad days. If you do this it will be ok. It is nerve wracking. I too try to make myself appear better off than I am, but my husband had drilled it into my head not to do that in the court room. It was really hard to admit what I was like on a bad day, but I was able to do it and I know if I hadn't I would have never won. I will say a prayer for you tomorrow.