June 20, 2017
Why should you have a brief for your Social Security disability hearing?
At the Law Office of Scott D. Lewis, we submit representative briefs to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) prior to our clients’ disability hearing. In my experience as an Indiana Social Security disability attorney, I find this to be helpful for a variety of reasons.
A well-structured brief can give the ALJ a concise framework for highlighting the important and relevant aspects in regards to a claim for disability. To begin, the brief can outline the procedural aspects or issues with a claim, and show the ALJ what steps or actions have been taken in anticipation of the hearing. A good brief will show the theory for disability of the case, such as whether the claim meets any Listing of Impairments or whether any of Social Security’s vocational guidelines. It should cite to a claimant’s medical records to demonstrate the severity of symptoms, point out any objective medical testing, and highlight any medical source statements from treating sources. A brief should also show how a claimant’s residual functional capacity is so diminished that no full-time jobs could be performed.
In my practice as a Social Security Disability attorney, I find that a brief serves two strong purposes. First, it allows the ALJ to know what arguments I am asserting for my clients and provides the evidence to support it. Medical records can contain hundreds of pages of documents, so giving the ALJ the locations of important documents all in one location can prevent some key piece of evidence from being overlooked. Second, I find that it helps me prepare for the hearing. After assembling the brief, I have a stronger understanding of the client, the medical record, and the strategy I plan to use to win the case.
Does every ALJ read every brief submitted? Probably not, however many ALJs certainly do. I know this because I have been asked questions regarding my legal arguments contained in the brief during hearings. I have also received thanks and compliments from ALJs for having a brief on file. The goal of writing a good brief is to make the hearing process easier for everyone involved. Social Security has strict guidelines for finding someone disabled; a strong brief can help to show that a claimant fits those guidelines.
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