By far the most common question clients have ahead of a disability hearing is whether they’re going to win.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to predict whether or not you win once your case gets before an administrative law judge.
However, there are several factors that make it more likely for you to receive a favorable decision:
· Consistent Medical Treatment- Medical records make or break a disability claim. Judges are looking for evidence of severe impairments that are expected to last for one year or more. If you’re alleging you are disabled due to back pain but rarely go for a doctor for it, a judge is much less likely to find that you are unable to work.
· Your Age- Social Security’s “grid” rules are set up to make it easier to receive benefits if you are over the age of 50. And the rules are even more relaxed at age 55.
· Your Work History- This goes along with the grid rules. If you are limited to unskilled sedentary work at age 50 and haven’t done that type of work full-time in the last 15 years, Social Security will find you disabled. That means that a claimant with severe physical impairments and a history of more physical jobs is also more likely to be awarded benefits.
And regardless of what type of work you’ve done, judges also tend to view claimants with a steady work history more favorably.
· The Judge- The award rates of administrative law judges are public information, and those numbers can vary wildly. Some judges award well over 50 percent of the cases that come before them, while other judges have award rates that hover around 20 percent. Which judge hears your case can have a big impact on whether your case is approved.
· Honest Testimony- There are usually at least a couple things in everyone’s medical records that are problematic to a disability case. It could have been an injury during unusually strenuous activity that seems to conflict with their disability claim, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse. These things don’t automatically torpedo a case, however, if they’re properly explained.
For example, a claimant with a back injury might have notes in her records that she enjoys bowling, but with testimony, it becomes clear that she hasn’t bowled in several years. And statements about sobriety that are consistent with the medical records go much further than denying any history of substance use.