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The Judges Make the Difference

We've been in this business for quite some time. We may mention that often, but it's true. And, because we've been around the block a time or two, we know a lot about how the disability process works, right down to the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs).

When you've been at a job for decades, you get to know the people you work with. Our advocates often represent our clients in front of the same 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 no longer know which ALJ will be presiding over a hearing prior to the day of the hearing, our experience working with them remains helpful both during and after our client's hearings.

One of our clients had a hearing before an ALJ that was well known to us...we knew the ALJ was more difficult to work with than some of the others. This 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, they are found to be disabled automatically. However, it is rare that an individual will meet all of the criteria associated with meeting a medical listing. If a client's impairment does not meet a listing, we must prove that the condition is "equal" to the severity of a listing. If they're found to "equal" a medical listing, they are automatically disabled without consideration to 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.

Even though this client's impairment was on the list of medical conditions, the ALJ required multiple letters and memos detailing concisely 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. The request for the letters and memos didn't come as a surprise; we knew what to expect with this ALJ and 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.

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