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November 2014 Archives

Medical Expert Witnesses

Occasionally, a Judge will ask an independent doctor to testify at a social security disability hearing. This is done either in person or on a conference call. Questioning the medical expert is a matter for your attorney to handle. It has been my experience that it is often possible to obtain favorable testimony from these witnesses that helps rather than hurts the case. The key is being familiar with the medical evidence so that the right kind of questions can be asked. Most social security disability hearings will involve use of a vocational expert or VE. The vocational expert will respond to hypothetical questions from the Judge and from your attorney which relate to the availability or unavailability of jobs based on certain restrictions. The key to obtaining helpful vocational expert testimony is usually based on the functional limitations indicated by your treating doctors. For example, if your doctor says that you need to lie down and occasionally elevate your legs at or above waist level for 20-30 minutes several times throughout the day, VE will testify that no jobs will allow this type of interruption of the work schedule. A competent attorney is aware of the various methods used to provide similar types of evidence that can be used in cross examination.

How Many Witnesses Should Testify at a Hearing?

At first, it would seem wise to have several witnesses testify at a social security disability hearing. However, this is usually not a good idea. Judges hate long hearings and repetitive testimony. Also, there is a risk that a witness will say something different then the claimant, thus damaging credibility. An exception to this may apply if the claimant has a seizure disorder (and cannot describe what takes place) or some other type of serious mental illness that limits the ability to effectively communicate. If a witness does testify, questions usually relate to what the claimant could do before they became disabled and how they are limited thereafter.

Discussing Your Medical Care at the Hearing

The administrative law judge does not have expect you to have the same type of medical knowledge as a doctor; however, because you have seen doctors for your conditions, the judges often do ask about your understanding of your condition and the treatment you received. One thing you can testify about is the side effects, if any, of prescribed medication. Many claimants take significant amounts of prescription drugs with multiple side effects that would have a negative impact on the person's ability to regularly perform work activity. It's not uncommon for a witness to cry at a social security disability hearing assuming however, the judges see this quite a bit and it often does not have a significant impact. This is your opportunity to tell about your conditions and if crying can be avoided, please do so.

Workers' compensation laws may be difficult to navigate alone

One of the hallmarks of what we take for granted today, as a modern society is how we treat workers who have been injured during the course of their employment. It used to be that if you were injured on the job you could look forward to only a few certainties: that you would lose your job, and that there was no system in place to help you either avoid unemployment and poverty or to help you recover and get back into the workforce.

Daily Activities

Everybody spends 24 hours per day doing something. In virtually every social security disability hearing, the claimant is asked how they spend their time on a day to day basis. Be prepared to list some specific things that you do such as watch TV, light housework, read, listen to music while indicating whether or not you need to do these activities in short spells of a few minutes to less than an hour, if you need to lie down and rest or change positions throughout the day, please be as specific as possible about this since this often has a significant impact on whether you could realistically perform any type of work activity.

How Social Security disability works

You may be familiar with workers' compensation benefits in North Carolina, but there is also a separate system to compensate people who have been injured in their employment: Social Security disability. This post covers some of the characteristics of how you may qualify for Social Security disability, and what it provides.

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