Last week, I finally received my Social Security Disability decision from the ALJ who I testified in front of – he gave me a fully favorable decision! I feel like a weight has been lifted!
My advice to anyone who is going through this process would be to be patient – it took me 1 1/2 years from start to finish to get through the grueling process. Please know when going in that almost all disability claims are denied on the first try. A lot of people will give up after this step and they know it.
If you are truly ill, you need to move on to the appeal. In the state I am from, the reconsideration phase has been eliminated so after the first denial it goes directly to the ALJ, so you do save a step.
Also, once you receive your first denial hire an attorney – you only have to pay them for any medical records that they get for you and they can take no more than 25%, or a maximum of $5,300 of the back pay you will receive. It was well worth it to me to know that someone who has experience with SSA could do all of this for me and save me the stress.
Make sure you have a doctor who specializes in whatever illness you suffer from. Make sure your medical records detail symptoms, severity, frequency, etc. not just that you suffer from the particular illness.
For me, going to the FFC is what helped my case tremendously because these doctors specialize in the illnesses I have and they wrote an excellent letter for me for the judge and ran extensive tests.
Once you get in front of the judge, you will be very nervous. I was terrified – but remember to be honest. Don’t over-exaggerate, but don’t understate your symptoms, severity, frequency, etc. either. The one thing I noticed the judge said about me repeatedly on my approval letter was that I was a very “credible” witness and that he believed my testimony to be “credible”. These guys have been around and seen it all, so they will know if you are the real deal or not.