Your Social Security Disability Hearing – How to Prepare and What to Expect

A Social Security disability hearing is not quite as formal as a regular court appearance. However, the presiding Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may still wear the traditional judicial robe and, depending on the location of the hearing, may sit on an elevated platform, known as “the bench.” Despite the fact that the proceedings tend to be less formal than a court trial, certain rules still apply. Understanding what is to come will assist you in preparing for your hearing.

What to Wear

You don’t have to wear a suit if you normally don’t do so. However, you should still take a moment to put some thought into how you will present yourself. Skirts should come at least to the knee. Cleavage has no place in at a disability hearing. Similarly, shorts are not appropriate. Nor are t-shirts with slogans or catchy phrases appropriate at a Social Security disability hearing. You should dress modestly, in clothes that are clean and pressed.

How to Avoid Being Late

It is absolutely critical that you be on time for your disability hearing. ALJs sometimes schedule hearings back to back. If you show up 30 minutes late, for example, the Judge may already be hearing the next case and may refuse to hear your case. You may be given the option to reschedule your hearing – but then again you may not. 

The best way to ensure that you are on time for the hearing is to do a “practice run.” Prior to your hearing, make your way to the location the hearing is scheduled to take place. Do this at around the same time you plan on leaving on the day of the hearing. This will give you a good idea of traffic patterns, bus or subway schedules, and other factors that could contribute to the amount of time it will take you to get from your front door to the hearing location. Do not forget to allocate time for parking, if you are driving, or unexpected delays, such as unusual traffic. Identify two separate parking options, so that if the garage you identified is full, you will know of another option and can get yourself there quickly.

What to Expect During the Disability Hearing

You can expect a court reporter to be present taking down every word that is said. Because there is a court reporter, it is critical that you respond verbally to questions. In other words, do not nod or shake your head. Also avoid responding with “Uh-huh.” 

There may be experts at your hearing, such as medical or vocational experts. You are also entitled to bring witnesses to testify on your behalf. The purpose of these fact witnesses, called lay witnesses, is to testify about your limitations. You can expect to be questioned by the judge, as well.

When You Are Testifying

Before you testify at your disability hearing, you will be placed under oath. It is critical that you understand that this means you are subject to both criminal and civil penalties if you commit perjury by lying under oath. The two most common errors people make are exaggerating their limitations or understating their limitations. 

Preparing for Your Testimony

Since you will be placed under oath, and because you know that you will be asked about your limitations, take a few moments to review your current physical, emotional, and/or mental state, depending on the condition for which you are claiming is disabling. This is where a disability diary can be critical. 

If you have been documenting your disability on a daily or weekly basis, take a moment to review the documentation, to remind yourself of all the ways you have been limited because of your disability. You should identify and be prepared to describe specific examples of your limitations. Testimony such as “I can’t do anything” is neither helpful nor, frankly, accurate. The Judge will note that you made it to the disability hearing, so you can obviously do “something.” 

Rather, “My arm muscles have atrophied to the point I can’t lift my arms above my head. This means I am unable to wash my own hair. I can’t reach into the cupboards to get a coffee mug. Additionally, because of the weakness in my muscles, I can’t lift my grandchild into my lap. I can’t carry more than five pounds.” 

Particularly if you have a condition where your symptoms or limitations vary from day to day, you want to identify concrete examples of your limitations on your worst days, your days that are neither good nor bad, and on your best days.   

Similarly, you may ask your lay witnesses, if you have any, to prepare a descriptive narrative of what they have observed about your current and past lifestyle and limitations. 

Answer the Question That Was Asked

If you are asked questions by the Judge, it is critical that you listen to the complete question and then respond to only that question. There is no need, for example, for you to recount your medical procedures if the Judge doesn’t ask about them  Your attorney will have already provided that information to the Judge.  You can expect that the Judge has read your file and is already aware of your medical procedures. Your testimony, and that of your lay witnesses, is designed to provide first-hand information about your daily life and how your condition affects and restricts your life.

Understand Your Attorney’s Role

Your attorney is there to represent your best interests. Your attorney also knows the legal standard in Social Security disability cases. If your attorney believes there is critical information about your case that has not been brought out during questioning by the Judge, your attorney may opt to ask you questions so that you may provide that information to the court. 

It is not uncommon, however, for your attorney to not ask any questions. This does not mean he or she is not advocating for you. Nothing further may be needed to put on the record since:

  • the legal standard is clear;
  • you already submitted pertinent information regarding your disabling condition;
  • you have provided testimony regarding how your condition affects you and limits your abilities at work and in your daily life; and,
  • expert and lay witness testimonies have also been provided.

For More Information About How to Prepare for a Disability Hearing, Contact Us Today

A qualified attorney will explain in more detail how you should prepare for your Social Security disability hearing and what you can anticipate to occur during it. For more information, contact Liebenhaut Law today.

Two Liebenhaut Law Alumni Pass the Bar

Over the years, we have had the opportunity to see undergraduate and law students who have worked at Liebenhaut Law go on to graduate law school and start their own careers as attorneys. Two of our favorite, Melanie Kalmanson and Michael Dobson, learned today that they passed the Florida Bar Exam and will very shortly be licensed to practice law in the state of Florida.  We are very proud of Melanie and Michael and wish them all the best as they embark on their legal career.  Below is a brief intro to these two future rock star lawyers.


MELANIE KALMANSON initially worked for the firm in the Summer of 2012. Over the years, she has come back to work for us at various times. When she started here, she was interested in learning about various types of law, but was very clear that she had no interest in becoming a family lawyer. We challenged Melanie to get involved in some family cases despite her initial aversion. To all of our surprise, Melanie took to family law and very quickly was able to add a lot of value on the cases on which she worked. She went on to law school and became a member of the Florida State University Law Review, moot court, and mock trial teams (a rare and impressive feat). She has had several articles published in various prestigious law journals throughout the country. She is now clerking for the Supreme Court of Florida.




MICHAEL DOBSON came to us as a college kid with intelligence, charisma, and humility. He was an intern for the firm as an undergraduate student in 2011. Michael impressed everyone at the firm with his maturity and initiative. He was caring and every client with him he worked grew to appreciate his obvious interest in their situation. Michael came to us with a great interest in public policy and legislative affairs. He has since gone to work for the Florida House of Representatives. We look forward to watching him continue to excel in his legal career and otherwise.


What is a green card?

What is a Green Card?

     If you have decided that you wish to live in the United States long-term and want to work here for indefinitely, a green card is something that will be something of interest to you.  A Green Card holder is someone who is considered a permanent resident to the United States and has the ability to work here for the rest of his or her life.  As immigration lawyers in Tallahassee, we assist people locally and across the country with green card issues.  Below is a brief explanation of green cards.

How Can I get a Green Card?

  1. Green Card Through Family
  • If you have an immediate relative of a U.S citizen.
  • A family member of a U.S. citizen is in one of the following categories: unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizen petitioners 21 or older.
  • A family member is already a green card holder
  • A member of a special category.

For more Information on the four possibilities listed click here.

  1. Green Card Through Job

For more information on the possibilities on how to get a Green Card through a job, click here.

  1. Other Ways to hold a Green Card

Other circumstances that may help you get a Green Card can be found here.

  1. Green Card for a Refugee

If you are a refugee seeking a Greek Card, click here to see if you are eligible and to learn about the application process.

  1. Green Card for an Asylee

     If you are an asylee and would like a clear explanation on the eligibility criteria and the application process, click here.

Contact us

     If you have any questions regarding the Green Card or want any assistance, give us a call at (855) WHEN-IN-DOUBT and we will gladly assist you. Matt Liebenhaut and Brandon Smoot, a lawyer specializing in topics such as the Green Card, are Tallahassee immigration attorneys here to help. He truly is here to help and will do his absolute best to make sure that your Green Card application will pass because at Liebenhaut Law, we put our clients first.

Avoid Social Security Disability Scams and Identity Theft!

Florida residents are the #1 targets for a serious organized crime; identity theft critically affects nearly 15 million people each year in the U.S. alone. Scammers and phishers are dishonest but they are not shy! They will call, email, or text you—often sounding very professional—and will construct creative ways to obtain your personal information. Between dumpster diving and stealing mail, one of the ways these cowardly criminals will assume the identity of their victims is by misleading the victim to believe they are somebody else, often over the phone. They are fakes, making a living off YOUR livelihood.

While their targets range from children to our elderly, our only weapon against these milksops is our good judgment. If you are applying for any form of benefits make sure to protect yourself from Social Security Disability Scams. If you have any questions, call your local social security office or a social security lawyer in Tallahassee.


As Tallahassee disability attorneys, this particular kind of threat upsets us because it is the people we strive so hard to help that are so often affected by these dishonest masquerades and fraudulent claims. Hard-workers and those who unfortunately find it too difficult to find enough support anymore are taken advantage of. It pains me to see how insensitive a human can be to fellow person. In an effort to look out for those we represent—we provide you with 3 easy-to-live by tips and precautions to fend off these criminals out to steal your money and your identity:

  1. You DO NOT have to give any personal information to anyone over the phone!

If the person asking for your personal information—such as Social Security number or banking information—is from an honest source, then you should never feel as though you are being pressured or will face serious consequences if you fail to give out your own personal information.  Call your local field office or a Tallahassee social security lawyer if you have questions.

  1. You should NEVER give your personal information via E-mail or through text!

It is highly unlikely that anyone official will seek to obtain such important information via E-mail or especially text. If you do not absolutely recognize the source of any E-mail or text requesting your personal information delete that message!

  1. While you can have an appointed representative payee handle your monthly benefits, those who do not should ALWAYS regularly check your monthly statements and keep track of ALL review statements in a folder, or old box.  Lastly, find a good, comfortable wallet. An unorganized wallet may be hard to sit on at times, but any organized wallet containing your I.D.(s) and credit card(s) SHOULD snugly fit inside any pants’ pockets or purse. Always know where your wallet or purse is!

If you plan on having or being an appointed payee representative – someone who is found to be responsible and trustworthy by the Social Security Administration to manage your received benefits; it is so important that the payee is more than familiar with the beneficiary’s conditions and limitations.

If you ever have any serious concerns regarding these matters and can’t get an answer from Social Security, call to get feedback from one of our Tallahassee social security attorneys.

By obtaining YOUR personal information such as birthdays, banking information, and—most importantly—your Social Security number, these scammers will make purchases using your credit card numbers and expect you to pay for it. My team and I are prepared to answer any & all of your questions during your (or a loved one’s) battle for benefits.


Can my kids get social security benefits if I am disabled?

The answer is often “Yes.”  Your kids get social security benefits if your are disabled. Over the past 60 years, Social Security has provided critical benefits to the families of those whom have paid their debt to its tax-based trust fund. Besides retirement, Social Security has proven helpful to so many people that have been found unable to work due to limiting conditions. These disability benefits are provided through Social Security’s Social Security Disability Insurance program. To find one of the most experienced Tallahassee disability lawyers, call Liebenhaut Law today.

Family Benefits

Approved SSDI claimants are not only rewarded SSDI benefits and Medicare, their families can receive additional benefits as well.  Monthly checks of up to half the disabled worker’s rate may be paid to the following members of a beneficiary’s family:

  • Children under the age of 18
  • Disabled Children 18-19 years old as full-time students in no higher than the 12th Grade
  • Adult Children Disabled before the age of 22.
  • Spouses (in certain situations)

Generally, a dependent child of a beneficiary will stop receiving benefits after 18 years of age. For an adult to receive benefits as a dependent of a beneficiary, he or she must meet the definition of disability prior to becoming 22 years old. The adult child also must earn no more than $1,130 per month.  Our Tallahassee social security lawyers have helped many parents win disability benefits and then assisted their disabled adult children prove disability prior to age 22.

A spouse may receive benefits if he or she is caring for a beneficiary’s child under age of 16 and is receiving Social Security benefits. Also, a spouse may qualify to receive benefits based on a beneficiary’s record if he or she is older than 62 and collects a lower Social Security benefit based on their earnings record.

A divorced spouse may qualify to receive benefits based on a beneficiary’s earnings record if he or she is unmarried at or above 62 years of age, and was married to the beneficiary for at least 10 years. He or she must also not be eligible to receive an equal or higher rate based on their record. A divorced spouse may be eligible to receive benefits on your behalf, even if you remarry.

Contact Us

 If you would like to ask how your spouse or other dependents could receive benefits on your behalf, speak to the Tallahassee Social Security lawyers at Liebenhaut Law. Call (850) 270-6977 to learn more about disability benefits and how they can improve your family’s income. Our Tallahassee-based Social Security disability law firm is open Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm.  Call us now or or complete a free online consultation to talk to an experienced Tallahassee Social Security disability attorney within 24 hours.