1. Be a Professional
Do the best job possible for your client. Just getting the medical records, a medical source statement, and attending the hearing with the client is not enough. Your opening statement to the judge may be forgotten by the time the next hearing starts.
A Social Security disability claim may have 30 thousand dollars or more of back benefits. The future benefits may be hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why wouldn’t you write a hearing memorandum?
2. Be More Prepared for the Hearing
Writing a good pre-prehearing memorandum makes you better prepared for the hearing. It forces you to go through the entire record and put everything in context. Furthermore, you can refer to your brief at the hearing. Need the exhibit and page number for that 2nd MRI when the judge asks about it? It’s in the brief. Having your reopening request in the brief ensures that you do not forget to ask for reopening at the hearing.
3. Test Drive Your “Theory of the Case”
Every hearing memorandum should explain how the evidence and law affect each step of the 5-step sequential evaluation process. Writing the hearing brief will help you to evaluate your theory of the case. If you can’t get past step 4 in your memorandum, you can’t expect a judge to reach a different result.
4. The Judge Wants a Memorandum
A hearing brief can be very helpful to the judge. That’s the point, after all. Since the memorandum is part of the disability claim file, it is available to the judge before, during and after the hearing.
A concise pre-hearing memorandum is on the list of best practices for claimants’ representatives published on the SSA’s website.
5. The Claim has a Glitch
Sometimes a claim has a glitch. Maybe there was work after onset that is close to SGA, or an unsuccessful work attempt. Maybe there is a past “date last insured.” Maybe there is a DAA issue. Perhaps a particular listing, regulation or Ruling should be reviewed prior to the hearing. All these issues can be addressed in your prehearing brief. If there is something quirky about your claim, deal with the issue in your memorandum.
6. Have the Judge “On the Same Page”
When a claim is unexpectedly denied, it sometimes seems that the judge had a completely different view of the claim than you did. A hearing memorandum reduces the risk of these unexpected denials, by clearly setting forth your assessment of the medical evidence and the legal reasoning supporting the claim. And since the hearing memorandum stays in the record, the judge can refer back to it long after your opening statement at the hearing has been forgotten.
7. Differentiate Your Claim
ALJs hear a lot of claims – hundreds every year. A hearing memorandum provides an opportunity to differentiate your claim. There is something unique about your claimant’s story. Maybe there is an outstanding prior work record, or the claimant heroically tried to go back to work after onset, or the claimant’s injury occurred during military service. Be sure to tell the judge about it in your hearing memorandum.
8. Simplify Your Claim
Some claims are complicated, and have medicals from numerous sources. It is not always clear from the record what is going on with your claimant. Take the opportunity to simplify your case, so that the ALJ can get a handle on it.
9. Your Client Deserves It
Would you ever tell your client that his claim is not important enough for you to spend a few hours writing a pre-hearing memorandum? Your client is relying on you to do everything possible to achieve an award of disability benefits. You know how important those benefits are to your client.
10. Win More Claims
This is the reason that initially persuaded me to invest more time writing hearing briefs. I learned that the judges were really reading them. And I won more cases. You will win more cases, and you will receive more on the record decisions and bench decisions, if you write a good hearing brief.