Imagine you are a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), and that you are preparing for a hearing to decide whether or not a claimant receives disability benefits. What information is available to you to review prior to the hearing?
Put yourself in the position of the ALJ looking at the file for the first time. Does it look like one of those claims likely to be granted? Remember, the judge has not had any interaction with the client, the way that the lawyer (hopefully) has. So all the judge has available is what is in the disability claim file.
The lawyer should provide the SSA with the claimant’s complete medical records, and a medical source statement from any treating source that will provide one. And that is a good start. But it can be difficult to evaluate claims based solely on the information from the medical records and the standard forms in the disability claim file. The claimant’s story is not always apparent from the claim file information.
If you were the judge, do you think that a hearing brief would be helpful at the time of the first review of the claim file, giving the claimant’s perspective of the case, and telling the claimant’s story? Do you think that a “lay” statement from a family member or friend, describing how life has changed since the disability began, would be helpful?
Put yourself in the shoes (or the robe) of the ALJ, and provide the information that will distinguish the claimant as a person with a compelling story, deserving of benefits, and disabled under Social Security’s rules. And have the information in the record well ahead of the hearing, so it is there when the judge first reviews the claim.
Download free ebook: