Dear Disability Judges: Speak Plain English
Social Security Disability Hearings are held before Administrative Law Judges, who usually ask the Claimant a series of questions. I am constantly amazed at how many of these Judges have difficulty communicating with my clients, most of whom have blue collar, working class backgrounds.
It's as if the Judges speak a different language. I call it “Judge-Speak”, and I am often required to act as a translator so my clients know what the Judge is saying.
Here are some real life examples of Judge-Speak and how I have translated the questions into plain English for my clients:
Judge: “Do you require the use of a hand held assistive device to ambulate?”
Translation: “Do you use a cane or a walker?”
Judge: “Are corrective lenses necessary for either near or distance visual acuity?”
Translation: “Do you wear glasses to see better close up? What about far way?”
Judge: “What was the highest level of education you attained?”
Translation: “How far did you get in school?”
Judge: “Please rate your level of pain on a scale of one to ten, with one representing less than mild discomfort, five representing significant discomfort but less than debilitating pain, and ten representing debilitating pain resulting in total incapacitation?”
Translation: “On a scale of one to ten how bad do you hurt?”
Judge: “What impairment or combination of impairments precludes your ability to engage in substantial gainful employment?”
Translation: “Why can't you work?”
In conclusion, Judges should utilize language consistent with the Claimants' educational and vocational backgrounds in order to foster better communication and to facilitate the expeditious conclusion of the proceedings. In other words, use plain English and the Hearings will be over quicker.