I have been saying for the past year that the steady stream of media stories alleging that Social Security approves too many social security disability claims would result in a backlash; specifically, in the form of higher rates of denial.  My fellow social security disability expert Gordon Gates in Maine has predicted the same, and gives us the benefit of his meticulous record keeping by documenting increased Administrative Law Judge denials in his area of the country in 2012. http://www.socialsecuritydisabilitylawyer.us/blog/2012/07/mid-year-review.html.  In my experience in Dallas Fort Worth I too am finding ALJ denials going up.  ALJs that once routinely approved claims are now saying no to meritorious cases.  It appears the “Empire” is indeed “striking back”. (Apologies in advance to any ALJs : I am not suggesting you are “Darth Vaders”!)

If you have filed for social security disability, or are considering filing for social security disability, what does this mean for you?  First off let me to tell you what it does NOT mean:  it does not mean that if you are truly disabled and unable to work that you should just simply give up, thinking “it’s just too hard”.

Rather it means that securing a competent, local social security disability attorney is more important than ever.   Here are some tips to disability claimants in weathering the storm.

  1. Ongoing medical treatment for the condition(s) that you allege disabling is a must.  Increased options for securing medical treatment via the Affordable Care Act (Obama care) only highlight the fact that you cannot tell an ALJ that you can’t find or afford medical care and expect to win a disability case.
  2. Carefully consider why you are disabled.  Think about the matter clearly.  Talk with you treating doctors.  Ask them what they think.  Ask them is they would support you in a claim for social security disability.  (Don’t ask for letters – leave that to the social security disability attorney you eventually retain).
  3. Comply with medical treatment.  That means, take the medications as directed.  If they are not working or helping, or have adverse side effects, don’t just stop taking them: talk to your doctor.   Do NOT miss doctor appointments.
  4. See Doctors that are Specialists.  The opinion of a general/family doctor carries less weight with social security than the opinion of the appropriate specialists.  So fibromyalgia, or lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis sufferers need to be seeing a rheumatologist.  Persons disabled due to Multiple Sclerosis need to being see a neurologist, etc.
  5. Consider vocational rehabilitation if you cannot do your old job, but think there might be a chance you could do something else with new skills. Contrary to myth, vocational rehabilitation strengthens, not weakens, your case:  ALJ are more inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt if you are actively trying to get back to work.
  6. Get control over bad personal habits that harm your health like smoking, too much alcohol, non-prescribed drugs, or overeating, and consequent obesity, and lack of exercise.  You don’t have to be perfect, but ALJs want to see you at least trying to eliminate these habits that only make disability worse.
  7. Get mental health care.  I have never met a disabled person who was not depressed or anxious.  It does not matter if this is not what you filed for disability for: your depression and anxiety exacerbate your physical condition and pain.  Sometimes a mental or emotional condition, in combination with physical impairment, can make the difference between winning and losing.