Last month, my hearings with an administrative law judge (ALJ) to determine medical eligibility for Social Security disability benefits followed the usual, familiar pattern: opening remarks by the judge and then the claimant’s lawyer (me), the claimant’s testimony, and then testimony of a vocational witness regarding the claimant’s past relevant work, and whether various functional limitations would preclude that past relevant work and/or other work. This, broadly speaking, is pretty much the course of most hearings. At the close of the hearing, the judge often will say something like “Thank you for coming today. I will review the record and issue a written decision soon.”
In two of my hearings last month, however, the judge said this, instead: “Based upon my review of the file, your testimony, and the testimony of the vocational witness, I will be issuing a Fully Favorable decision.”
What a difference that makes! While we all have to wait for the written decision to be issued, it gives tremendous relief for the claimant to hear from the judge that the claim for Social Security disability benefits will be granted. There is no uncertainty or worrrying while waiting for the decision. It is an act of grace, really. I wish judges would follow this example more often.