Reflections on Determinations of Disability

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… shining a light on the realities of filing for permanent disability.

A favorable final determination or permanent disability, if you get it, all too often means denial of the initial application, denial at appeal, denial at reconsideration, and finally a favorable finding by a judge after judicial review.

As for the government finding in favor when it ought not, the facts are quite the opposite.  These bureaucrats more often put legitimately disabled people through the paces for years, some as many as 5-years before they get one dime of compensation.  A review of the SSA web pages years ago revealed SSA Administrators touting the large numbers of applicants who simply gave up.  These conscientious Administrators credited the deliberate multi-level process augmented by routine denials at each level for their success.  Another aspect of the foreboding process is the degree to which SSA uses ‘generic’ doctors to provide professional assessments of disability in what are more often complex medical matters and diagnostics for which these doctors have no training.  If anything these doctors routinely deny what are very real disabilities simply from a lack of practical experience in the medical discipline properly needed to assess what are by definition exceptional cases.

When the subject matter expert testifying for the government at trial asks, “Aren’t you glad someone finally read your medical records”, you have to know the process is littered with bureaucrats who don’t really care about professionalism or medicine.  When you’re diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) with the common diagnosis that you have 3-months to live and these same doctors deny your initial claim, you have to know the process is littered with bureaucrats who don’t really care about professionalism or medicine.  Get an Attorney!  And thank your lucky stars that “judicial temperament” still means something – there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

Why is an attorney early on a wise choice?  The value of hiring an attorney is that they understand the ridiculously complex and nuanced language of medical determinations and thus provide an advocate for those legitimately in need.  These advocates are not allowed to charge one dime unless and until they win.  In short, if they take your case you very likely meet or exceed the federal guidelines for being permanently disabled.  If your attorney wins, you pay him/her from monies held in abeyance by the government the entire time the process goes forward.  The government pays NO MONIES from the government’s general fund, it’s all on the back of the applicant who loses a portion of the money they would have otherwise been paid had the government got it right on the initial application.  That said, an attorney is worth every dime.

Please do add your story and tips if your experience differs or confirms the above.  There is a group of hard-working, self motivated employees who simply have hit their “life wall” and can’t press through the pain anymore, or take another pain-killer followed by working in a dead haze these drugs inevitably create.  Simply put, having spent a lifetime dreaming of a day when medicine can fix what nature has screwed up, they simply want to know that their only safety net is just that.

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