I have safely made it back over the Oregon Coast Range after going to a Social Security disability hearing in Portland, Oregon with a long time Social Security disability client. We first went to hearing two or three years ago, in front of the Judge who questioned my client for several minutes. The original decision found that my client was anything but credible. In making the argument that my client overstated his limitations, the Administrative Law Judge found alleged inconsistencies between my client's testimony, and prior statements made to health care providers. However, a closer look at the exhibits shows that these inconsistencies really didn't exist.
We appealed the Unfavorable Decision, and the Appeals Council saw through the false discrepancies, sending the case back for another hearing.
The newly assigned Judge saw things much differently. He complemented my client on a successful career, and thanked my client for his service in Vietnam (my client was awarded the Bronze Star for valor in combat). We knew, walking out of the hearing less an hour later, that my client would get the benefits he deserves.
My client was fortunate in that the prior Judge had transferred out of the Portland hearings office, and he was assigned a new Judge. Typically, if the Appeals Council sends a case back on appeal, it goes to the same Judge who was "reversed," at least for the first appeal.
Unfortunately, even with all the rules, policy statements, and court cases that direct Judges on how they should evaluate evidence, one Judge will see the evidence much differently than another. It is a human element that cannot be eliminated from the process.
Much of the work we do for our clients occurs well prior to hearing. We help our clients fill out questionnaires that accurately reflect their day-to-day activities, abilities, and limitations. We have seen too many times that a judge will take statements in these questionnaires out of context, and use the statements to deny benefits.
If you are in the middle of the Social Security Disability application, and you have questions about forms, questionnaires, or going to hearing, call us at 503-325-8600. You can also order our free book, and learn what to do and what not to do in applying for benefits.