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Disability Judge Trick Questions

Last updated: April 12, 2023

Are you waiting for a hearing after filing for Disability benefits? If that's the case, you'll want to be ready for any disability judge trick questions ahead of time. A skilled disability lawyer will be able to effectively prepare you for your hearing if you cooperate with them. Unrepresented claimants, on the other hand, must prepare on their own.

Judges for SSDI are under a lot of pressure to approve only the most deserving cases. While outright fraud is uncommon, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) are trained to be wary of every claimant they encounter. Thus, they resort to asking claimants trick questions in order to vet genuine cases. 

If you’re opting to represent yourself, it's important to be aware of some of the most common disability judge trick questions. Check out some below and how to answer these questions. 

3 Most Common Questions Asked By ALJs 

Here are the three most common trick questions we hear at hearings:

Question 1: It appears that you live alone. What are your options for obtaining food and supplies?

Why this is tricky: The judge understands that everyone needs food and basic essentials. The ALJ will want to know how you get essentials if you've previously said that you can't drive, stand, leave your residence, or conduct any other fundamental chores.

How you should respond: Don't be flippant with your response. Instead, be as specific as possible. For instance, let them know if you have a friend or neighbor who drives you to the grocery store once a week. Ensure the ALJ is aware if you order groceries online and bring them in with a cart. Tell the ALJ about the difficulty of the journey if you can go to the grocery store in a pinch, but it takes you all day to do the work.

Question 2: You live with dependents. What kind of care do you give them?

Why this is tricky: When there is a glaring discrepancy between a claimant's actual living condition, medical proof, and testimony, the ALJ will ask questions like these. For example, if a claimant is a sole caregiver for an elderly parent who cannot lift more than three pounds, an ALJ will question the claimant about how they will assist their loved one with showering or getting around the house.

How you should respond: Honesty and forthrightness are essential when answering these questions. You should explain how you look after your loved one — we all do our best for those we care about. However, make a note of every assistance you receive, no matter how minor. Also, mention any modifications you've made due to your disabilities. You could answer something like: "When I help my mother sit up in bed, I use a sheet to move her, and I take regular breaks."

Question 3: Your previous work required a lot of physical exertion. Obviously, you can't do that any longer, but if someone offered you the same pay for a sit-down job, would you be interested?

Why this is tricky: If an ALJ asks you this, it's usually because they believe your impairments aren't severe enough to qualify you for Social Security disability benefits. They may consider that, while you are unable to perform your previous work, your disabilities may allow you to work in some capacity and generate pay over the monthly SSDI maximum. In these cases, ALJs frequently question the vocational expert for further background.

How you should respond: If you don't have a disability lawyer representing you at your hearing, maybe you don't comprehend Social Security's definition of disability. The test for disability is not that you can't do your current job, but that you can't do any kind of work that pays more than the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) limit.

If the judge asks you this question and you believe you can do less physically demanding work, be honest with your response. However, if you believe the ALJ and vocational expert are missing key information regarding your impairments, or if you have a history of failed attempts to pursue less physically demanding occupations, now is the time to speak up.


One thing that all the answers have in common is that you should be truthful. This will ensure that your hearing goes well. If the ALJ or vocational expert finds that you've been dishonest, that could seriously diminish your chances of getting approved. 

Read more on Disability Help to find out how you can check the status of your disability claim

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Cheri Hermanson
Cheri leads our team of writers in producing the best quality content there is regarding society and disability, most especially those that helps ease the quality of life for our differently-abled loved ones.
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