Social Security hearing: should I bring notes?

It is natural to be nervous when preparing for your Social Security hearing. The judge may ask when you worked certain jobs, the procedures you have undergone, which doctors treated you for your impairments or your medications. There’s a lot of facts to keep track of.

Wouldn’t it help to bring a notebook with this information?

Honestly, I don’t believe bringing a notebook to a hearing is helpful. Or, more specifically, I believe the negatives outweigh the positives.

If you bring notes, you won’t answer naturally. You will likely end up clutching and flipping through the notebook throughout the hearing.  You’ll know that some answers are in your notes, but you will forget which ones. So, you will check your notebook before answering the judge’s questions. You will use your notes to avoid eye contact with the judge, and end up answering questions looking at the table and not making any human connection with the person who needs to decide your case.

For another reason, the answers are not there. If you bring a few key pieces of information, 95% of the judge’s questions will be unrelated to your notes. If you bring voluminous notes, you won’t be able to find the information you need in the pressure of a hearing setting.

Plus, skimming through a notebook at a hearing just doesn’t look natural. This is YOUR CASE. The judge will be asking you about YOUR DISABILITY. How do you think it looks to the judge when s/he asks where do you feel pain, and you have to check your notes before answering?

Keep in mind that much of the factual information is already in the file in front of the judge:

  • Where you worked
  • Who your medical providers are, and, of course
  • Your medical records

If the judge asks you about any of this, s/he may be asking for clarification, but the information is likely already in the file.

This is another reason to have an attorney with you at your hearing. The attorney has the same information as the judge and can help locate where things reside in the file. The attorney can also provide information and can help you remember things in case you forget or get things wrong.

You should also know that the judge does not expect you to remember everything. The judge may expect you to know the big things. But not the minutiae of things that happened years ago. Also, the judge know that people are nervous during hearings and a likely to forget things.

The best thing you can do during the hearing is to just be yourself. Answer the best you can. However if you do not know an answer, just say you do not know, or that you can’t remember. Your lawyer can help you fill in the details if you falter.

People are naturally nervous at their hearing. However, a notebook only acts as a crutch.

The only exception concerns bringing a list of your current medications (if you did not fill out a form for Social Security shortly before the hearing). However, do not take it out unless you are answering about medications. And then put it away once you are done. Otherwise, you may end up staring a single piece of paper, looking for answers that are not there.

Photo by Leslie Richards

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     the more preparation you do the better.

  • Disability Benefits

    I agree Tomasz, it seems very unnatural if you have notes in front of you. You should be able to describe your situation without having it written down a piece of paper. It almost makes it seem like you are not suffering from the disease and rather somebody has told you what to say.

  • http://www.socialsecurity-disability.org Disability Help

    I do not believe that notes are necessary, provided that you are honest and forthcoming about the details of your case.  However, it is worth being well-prepared before arriving at your Social Security Disability hearing.