When testifying at the Social Security hearing, claimants will often say they can’t work because of some condition – bipolar disorder, dermatitis, degenerative disc disease, or other conditions. But what judges are really looking for is for you to tell them in your own words how your disability affects you.
In short, they – and your lawyers – want plain speaking.
I’m often impressed with clients’ plain speaking.
I asked a young woman, Annie, a client in northern Minnesota who has bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive disorder), “So, how’ve you been doing with the bipolar disorder?”
“Well, um, you know, it’s … Up and down!”
Yep – that pretty well sums it up…And, Annie did win her Social Security Disability case.
Another client, “Nancy,” from Minneapolis-St. Paul, who was battling many physical and mental issues, was found to have a brain tumor. Her doctors wanted to biopsy the tumor to see if she had cancer, but Nancy refused.
Concerned, I asked her why she wouldn’t let them do it. Exasperated, she said: “Because I don’t want my head cut open!!” (She tactfully left out the words “You idiot!”)
In a memo to the Social Security Disability Administrative Law Judge, I explained Nancy’s “legitimate fear and concern about having her skull cut open.” She won her SSI disability case.
I counsel my clients that it’s not enough to tell Social Security Disability judges, “I have degenerative disc disease” or “I have bipolar disorder.”
You have to tell the judges in your own words how your disabilities affect you, for example: “My back hurts really bad, and it’s hard for me to walk even a block.” Or, “I’m up and down like a roller coaster.”
Plain speaking can win the day with Social Security Disability.