It Is Important to Have a Plan for Winning a Social Security Disability Case

 By Gilbert B. Laden

Social Security disability judges are under pressure to issue 500 to 700 decisions a year. That is about 50 cases a month. They have thousands of pages to read, digest, and evaluate. One of the most important things I have to do is to come up with a plan, or strategy, to take maximum advantage of the judge’s time to look at my client’s case favorably.

I know that judges are looking for certain things. What type of claim is it? When was it filed? Are there prior claims that are worthy of reopening? Is the person insured for benefits? What kind of work did the person do? For how long? Was it skilled work?

All of that may sound like gobbledy-gook, but they are all important issues the judge has to consider before even getting to the medical issues. You see, a Social Security disability claim requires a look at both medical and non-medical factors.

Let us look at the medical part for a moment. The foundation of every case is the medical records. What do they say? Do they show regular, ongoing efforts to get relief for the disabling medical problems? Is the person seeing a specialist, a family doctor, a nurse practitioner, or a therapist? Is the person being upfront about his or her symptoms? Has there been testing done? Has the person undergone any procedures? Is he or she following the doctor’s advice? (We call this “compliance with treatment.”)

Once there is that foundation with records, hopefully, there will be opinions from the treating doctors as to the disabled person’s limitations. Social Security disability law says the judge is supposed to give great weight to the treating doctor’s opinion. But, like so many other areas of the law, there are exceptions. The judge has wide discretion in applying the rules.

The judge will listen to the claimant’s testimony at the hearing. The judge will have already looked at the forms that person completed in the early stages of the case. Does the testimony and the responses on those forms seem consistent? Do they match up with what the person has told the doctor? Are the complaints of pain and the limitations backed up by the rest of the evidence?

A lot has to fall into place to convince a judge. This is especially true now, as judges are finding fewer people to be disabled than they have in the last 40 years.

I personally meet with my clients early on. I tell my clients how important it is to get regular medical treatment, most importantly for their health, but, secondly, so we can develop evidence. We start planning right at that first meeting how we are going to try to win the case. All those questions discussed throughout this article are the ones I am seeking to provide answers for to the judge’s satisfaction.

In every case, I send in a prehearing brief. A brief is one of those legal terms, but it simply means I provide the judge information about the case, step-by-step, with all the important facts and then my legal reasons for why the judge should find my client to be disabled. The brief helps the judge get a handle on what the case is all about. It helps the judge manage his or her time efficiently. Judges appreciate this effort.

For me, it is what a lawyer ought to do for his client.

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The information on this web site is made available by Gilbert B. Laden, P.C., for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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He has been certified as a specialist in Social Security Disability Law by the National Board of Social Security Disability Advocacy, as acknowledged by the Alabama State Bar.