Those who have applied for Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits know how frustrating and lengthy the process can be. Applicants in the Daytona, Ormond, and Flagler beach areas will have their applications handled by the Jacksonville, Florida, office for Social Security claims. Due to the large number of applicants in Florida, there is a significant backlog of cases waiting to be heard by Social Security judges. Without exaggeration, it can take several years between the initial application for disability and the hearing before a Social Security judge.

As most people applying for Social Security Disability know, an applicant has to be denied twice before a request for hearing can be made. The amount of time between the request for hearing and the actual hearing can vary, but it will usually be at least a year or longer. So, when the hearing finally arrives, applicants need to make sure that they are prepared! Often times, this may be the best or only chance to obtain your disability benefits.

As such, preparation is very important!  Here are a few suggestions on ways to prepare for hearing:

  1. Get legal representation. If you have not already retained an attorney prior to requesting a hearing, it is strongly advisable to retain one at this point. Do not wait until you have a hearing date before retaining an attorney. Waiting until a hearing is already set may pose a problem finding a lawyer who is available to cover a hearing on such short notice. Also, the longer an attorney is involved with your file, the more familiar the lawyer will be with the evidence in your case.
  2. Make sure your medical records are up to date. Do not rely on the Social Security Administration to obtain updated records for the hearing. If you are unrepresented, make sure you get copies of your records in advance of hearing and send them to Social Security, or if necessary, bring them with you to the hearing. If you are represented, make sure your attorney is aware of all of the doctors you are seeing, including any new doctors you may have seen.
  3. Complete all paperwork sent to you by Social Security in advance of the hearing. You should receive a "Hearing acknowledgment" form, updated medical questionnaire, employment questionnaire and medication list.
  4. If you are on numerous medications, you may want to consider taking them to the hearing for the judge to see. This is sometimes more persuasive than listing multiple medications on a sheet of paper. By bringing them to the hearing, the judge can actually see which medications you are on and the dates that they were filled.
  5. If you are unrepresented, discuss your case with family or friends. This will help refresh your memory with regard to treatment, doctors, medications and difficulties you may be having.
  6. If you are represented, be sure to meet with your attorney prior to hearing. You should discuss your testimony and update your attorney on your medical condition and symptoms.
  7. At the hearing, PAY ATTENTION! Listen to the judge and your lawyer. Answer questions directly. Do not try to dodge questions or "oversell" your responses. Be honest and direct.

These are just a few things that will better prepare you for your long awaited hearing.  Obviously, each case is different, so how to prepare will vary, but preparation is important. If you have questions regarding your Social Security claim or would like assistance, please feel free to contact Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. at 1-800-556-8890.for a free consultation.