When you've been at a job for decades, you get to know the people you work with. Our advocates often represent clients in front of the same Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). As a result, we've gotten to know them ... and, most importantly, how best to represent our clients in front of them. Although we don't know in advance which ALJ will hear a client's case, our vast experience allows us to adjust whichever ALJ is assigned. One client's story illustrates this well.
Our client's impairment was found on the list of medical conditions. The Social Security Administration maintains a list of medical conditions for multiple impairments; if someone's impairment meets the requirements of a certain listing, he or she is found to be disabled automatically.
A little background about medical listings is in order. An individual seldom meets all of the criteria associated with a medical listing. If a client's impairment does not satisfy all the requirements of a listing, we must prove that the condition is "equal" to the severity of a listing. If a condition is found to "equal" a medical listing, the individual is automatically disabled without considering other factors (i.e. age, testimony, and doctors' opinions). Many clients, however, do not fall into the category of either "meeting" or "equaling" a medical listing, and consideration of all other factors mention above is important.
Back to our client: Even though this client's impairment was on the list of medical conditions, the ALJ required multiple letters and memos detailing exactly how the impairment met the listing in addition to the medical evidence we had already provided. Had the client appeared before a different ALJ, the additional letters and memos might not have been requested, and the road to a decision might have been that much shorter.
Because we knew how this judge worked, the request for the letters and memos didn't come as a surprise. We were able to provide all of the additional information needed. In the end, our client was awarded a Fully Favorable decision. But sometimes, the judges make all the difference in the process.