Most people waiting to hear from the judge after their hearings expect that the judge will either approve them (fully favorable) or deny them (unfavorable.) But there is another possibility. A judge could find in your favor but not agree with you about when your disability began. In that case, you get a partially favorable decision.
Many Reasons For A Partially Favorable Decision
There are numerous reasons why a judge would issue a partially favorable decision. Almost always, though, the issue is when your disability began. When some claimants first apply for disability, they list the date of the onset of their disability ten or more years in the past. Unless there is some very compelling medical evidence from that time, a judge is very unlikely to go back that far. If a judge decides you recently became disabled she will find partially in your favor.
Age Can Be A Factor
Even if you claimed on onset date within the past few years, the judge could still think a different date is more appropriate. In some instances, this is because a person has aged into a new disability category. You could become disabled on your 55th birthday, to use an example. Other times there could be a significant event, such as an accident or a surgery, that forms a more natural starting date for disability.
Generally, judges will ask claimants during the hearing if they wish to change their onset to match what the judge
believes is the correct date. If the claimant agrees and does change the onset date, the judge's decision is now a fully favorable one. This is because the onset date matches with what the judge agrees is the start of the disability.
Note, too, that a partially-favorable decision will only affect back benefits. Even a partially favorable decision means you are disabled and entitled to ongoing benefits. Where this gets tricky is if the judge's onset date is after your date last insured. That is a topic for another blog post.
You Can Appeal, But Be Wary
If you receive a partially favorable you can appeal. I rarely recommend people doing this, though. If you appeal, you put the issue of your disability into play from the beginning. A judge hearing your appeal could decide you were never disabled. That means having to pay back all the benefits you ever received. That is a risk generally not worth taking.
If you have questions about this or anything else, please let me know.