How Social Security Judges Think – Disability Attorney in Springfield Missouri

The majority of individuals applying for Social Security disability have to appear before a judge to win their case. Therefore, it is critical to understand how Springfield Missouri Social Security Judges approve cases.

But if you’ve never appeared before a Springfield Missouri Social Security judge, how would you know how they think? Here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring a disability attorney and before meeting a judge.

Credibility Is the Central Component of Your Case

Judges base credibility determinations on work history, medical records, physicians’ opinions regarding work and to a lesser extent, what attempts if any, you’ve made to return to work.

You Have A Solid Work Record

Work history is becoming more and more important.  One judge said it is the first thing many judges turn to in the claimant’s file. Please be clear, this is not to measure how much you made, but whether you have consistently worked and paid Social Security taxes.

If you have a solid work history, the judge will usually find your story credible. If you do not have a strong work history, your claim will not automatically be denied but a judge is more likely to look very hard at any inconsistencies in your story.

Your Case Is Well Documented

In countless hearings, it has been clear the judge decided to approve the claim before the hearing. The hearing was a mere formality.

In fact, many disability claims are won or lost prior to the hearing because proving you are disabled is the product of many months or years of medical and vocational documentation that cannot be created the day of the hearing.

Prior to the hearing, judges expect your claim to be well documented with relevant medical records, disability letters/work limitations from your physicians, and statements from lay people who know you well. This documentation should be obtained and submitted for review by the judge before your hearing. The totality of this evidence should tell the judge what they want to know before they ever see you.

Developing your case and having a strategy to win literally years prior to the day of the hearing is critical and a compelling reason to retain a disability attorney who handles disability law before or soon after filing your claim. It costs nothing to hire a disability attorney in Springfield Missouri. You only pay a fee from your back benefits if you win. Therefore, I recommend contacting a social security disability lawyer even before you file your claim.

Your Medical Records Are Consistent With Your Testimony at the Hearing

When your medical records confirm your testimony at the hearing, you should win your case. Why? Well documented medical records are the number one reason judges approve claims.

Disability can be based on any documented medical diagnosis that has a significant impact on your ability to function. Judges listen to your testimony at the hearing, but what they really want is to see the story reflected in your medical records. Do you have a proper diagnosis? Have you treated consistently with physicians and have you been seen by a medical specialist or specialists? Have you complied with treatment recommendations?

Do your records confirm your testimony regarding the frequency, severity, and duration of your symptoms and why they limit your ability to function?

Are you taking medication or medications, or receiving treatment which suggests your medical condition is serious and debilitating? Do you have significant side effects from medications that would affect you in a work environment? Judges will thoroughly review medical records on these issues and before approving the claim must find the answer to most of these questions is “yes.”

Your Treating Physicians Support Your Claim

Federal law requires the judge to carefully consider your physician’s opinion and may require the judge to actually adopt their opinion. Thus, if the doctor believes you are disabled and specifically states why, the judge may be bound to accept the opinion which means you’re now in the homestretch to claim approval.

Treating physicians’ opinions must be specific and set forth physical and/or psychological limitations you have in a work environment. In other words, restating your diagnosis is usually not enough; the doctor needs to explain why your medical conditions prevent you from working.

Medical records are critical at this step because your physician’s opinion can only be adopted and will only make sense if his or her medical records support and document the reasons why the physician believes you are disabled.

Treating physicians’ opinions are critical to success and like medical records cannot be manufactured on the day of the hearing, it usually takes months and years to earn the trust and support of a doctor in a disability claim.

Other Evidence That Supports Your Claim

Judges frequently find “other evidence” in my clients’ cases such as affidavits from co-workers, family, and friends and personnel records documenting excellent or poor performance (and work absences) prior to the date you became disabled to be compelling. I use this evidence (and suggest you do) in literally every case because judges have to consider it. This evidence corroborates and provides lay witness support for your testimony, your physicians’ opinions and your medical record.

Remember that winning your case is a matter of perseverance, preparation and executing a thoughtful strategy that should be created many months before your hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge.