If you have received a denial of your initial claim for Social Security Disability benefits, and requested an appeal, you will likely appear before a Social Security Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) who will decide whether you meet the criteria for disability benefits.
Social Security requires that the ALJ consider all of the following factors to determine whether a claimant is disabled:
- whether the claimant engaged in substantial gainful work;
- whether the claimant has a severe impairment;
- whether the severe impairment meets or equals an impairment in the Listings of Impairments;
- whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform his or her past relevant work;
- whether, in light of the claimant’s RFC, age, education, and work experience, there are other jobs the claimant can perform.
Although the factors that the ALJ uses are the same for each claimant, the way in which each judge applies or interprets the factors to an individual claim varies widely from judge to judge. That is, there is a certain amount of subjectivity in each judge’s decision.
A local attorney experienced in Social Security Disability law, who has appeared before the various ALJs in his/her region, is a tremendous asset to a claimant during the appeal process. Knowing what the judge looks for, in terms of documentation of the claimant’s physical or mental capabilities as well as the type of work that claimant has performed is an important part of the presenting the claimant in the most favorable light when he or she appears before the judge with his attorney.