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How to Get the Respect You Deserve From the Legal System

By Charles Binder

 

Times are changing. The federal courts are beginning to believe that CFIDS can be disabling. But for those of us who care about people who suffer from chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), we still have a long way to go.

            I gave a talk a few years ago at a gathering of lawyers who practice Social Security Disability law. In my address, I proposed several re-tape-cutting systems that would greatly speed up the process for dismissing obviously wild claims.

            An Administrative Law Judge came up to me after my talk and told me he liked my proposals. With one exception: "Don't send me any of those chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia cases," he said.

            If you have CFIDS, getting the respect you deserve from the government's legal system means you have to first convince your doctor you're disabled. Then your doctor has to help you and your attorney convince the government.

            Here are five ways you can help your own case:
1. Find a doctor who is specifically familiar with your disorder and is well-respected in the medical profession.

            The degree of respect your doctor's testimony gets at a hearing is often directly related to his or her expertise with your particular problem, and his or her standing in the medical community.

            The Social Security Administration (SSA) routinely calls doctors to testify as "impartial" witnesses to explain unusual disorders to the Administrative Law Judges. Most of these doctors seem to feel their role is really to justify denying claims.

            In order to properly refute their testimony, it helps your attorney if your doctor's qualifications concerning your specific disorder are as good as, or better than, the government's doctor.

 

2. Be a model patient.

            Keep records of doctor visits. Keep a daily log of symptoms. When you describe fluctuations accurately, your testimony becomes more believable. Keep written notes on low-grade fevers, variable muscle aches and pains in the joints. It makes you a better patient for your doctor and a better witness for your attorney.

 

3. Ask your physician to make their reports in a simple and straightforward form.

            Reports that look "slick" or "faddish" create credibility problems. Chiropractors frequently use fancy, color stationery that pictures the spinal cord. Often judges think the author of a report presened like that is somehow not serious enough.

            Judges are lawyers. And lawyers tend to be stuffy. Their perception is that a really distinguished doctor, like a professor of medicine at a major teaching hospital, is not likely to use such stationery. Perception counts in winning your case.

 

4. Avoid self-serving doctors.

            One of my favorite CFIDS clients was seeing a physician who was attentive and a good listener. That's good. My client felt she was doing better under his care. That's also good. Unforuntately, his reports always seem to mention how much better she is doing that when under another doctor's care. That's not good. It severely weakens the impact of his reports. To an experienced Administrative Law Judge, his reports lack credibility.

 

5. Always maintain your own self respect.

            I think I understand how difficult that must been when you are suffering from CFIDS. But you can never expect to get respect from other people, let alone from the government and the legal system, if you don't respect yourself.

Administrative Law Judges in the Social Security system are trained to follow acceptable medical proof of disability. As the medical profession more readily accepts CFIDS as a disabling disorder, the Social Security system and the courts in general will follow.

Times are changing. For the better. You can helpp the times change a little faster for yourself and for everyone who must deal with CFIDS by following these five simple rules.

            

1 Comment

I appoligize for not sending this sooner, but I just wanted to thank you for all your help. What most people don't understand about your firm, and what I needed the most, is that your staff takes the time to listen and they are very compasionate listeners. Most people when they find themselves in this situation where they need dissability, are scared for their very lives, and your staff went very much above and beyond any expectations. Thank you for restoring some of my faith in the legal system. Please pass this on to your other clients, and tell them...It really will be OK! :)

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