Many Social Security Disability cases come down to credibility. That is, does the judge believe you and believe you are disabled? Are you trustworthy? In determining your credibility, the judge expects your statements about your symptoms to remain consistent.
As a New Orleans disability lawyer, I can describe some factors the judge may use to assess your consistency and credibility:
Your Medical Records
The judge will examine your medical records for medical history, exam and treatment information, and results of any tests given. It will be problematic if the information contained in your file differs from the way you’ve described your impairment and symptoms. I often hear clients complain of pain or fatigue due to various ailments, but their medical records never mention pain. In fact, sometimes the medical records say, “Patient doing ok” or “Patient reported no pain.” If you are in pain or experiencing other symptoms, you must tell your doctor and must make sure your complaints are in your medical records. If your medical records are not consistent with your complaints at the hearing or in your application, you lose credibility and likely your disability case.
Your Own Statements
Remember all those forms Social Security had you complete—those can and will be used as evidence of your statement of what you can or cannot do. If you put on those forms that you could drive and later claim that you cannot drive—there should be a good and valid reason for the change. You must be truthful about your symptoms and as long as you are truthful things should not change much. The judge, of course, will be aware that symptoms may change over time, but large discrepancies in your description will seem suspicious. And, there goes your credibility.
Consistency in the Case Record
SSA sends forms to third parties and sometimes doctors or employers will note things that find their way into the Social Security Disability case. The judge will have access to your case recording containing statements made by others about your daily activities and limitations. If the statements of these individuals differ significantly from your own description, your credibility can be affected.
Preparation = Consistency
While consistency begins with truthfulness, you may not always remember precisely how you felt in the past or on the particular day you completed the SSDI forms. This is why preparation in advance of your hearing with a local Social Security Disability lawyer is important. You and the lawyer can review the statements you previously made to SSA, review your medical records and review any other evidence in the claim file that may impact your credibility. This review can help you remember and prepare you to be consistent and hopefully credible at your hearing.