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Tucson Social Security Disability Blog

Why Did The Judge Focus On The Few Bad Things In My Case?

Posted by John Kuhnlein | Jul 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

One thing that tends to upset people, even people who have won their Social Security disability cases, is the focus on any negative information in the file.  Clients often want to know why the judge even brought up trivial medical or personal information when writing her decision.  I know from experience that it is true that judges have given undue weight to the bad stuff. So why?

Negativity Bias

See? I Explained It All Here

The answer seems to be in something called the negativity bias.  Simply put, the negativity bias suggests that people find that bad news outweighs good news.  There are various theories as to why this is true, but not much debate that it does occur.

Judges are subject to all the same biases as other people. Little wonder, then, that negativity bias finds its way into so many of their decisions.  Most commonly, this comes up when judges engage in a review of a claimant's character.  Even if the claimant has a documented diagnosis that is supported by all manner of medical evidence, judges seem unable to resist a few digs.  The one I see all the time pertains to smoking. If a client is still smoking, the judge is going to bring that up seemingly without regard to the underlying medical conditions. The same is true of any substance abuse, no matter how distant. Another common source of judge's negative comments is non-compliance with medical care. Even one skipped appointment, regardless of the reason why, can get magnified into a significant insight into a claimant's character.

Don't Make It Easier For Judges To Say Bad Things About You

Mostly, claimants cannot control what people say about them. But, it is helpful to avoid issues that could result in bad news.  Some

Just Say. . . You Know

things are obvious, like keeping all your appointments and taking all your prescribed medications.  Nobody should be smoking at this point. 

Take Your Medications, Keep Your Appointments, Be Honest

Other things to watch for: if possible, don't refuse to do tests such as bending and squatting and walking on your toes. Doctors are almost always going to take such refusals as the claimant hiding something.  Also, don't decline to answer questions about your health. As much as you may believe that it is nobody's business, your silence is going to hurt your case.

Getting approved is already very hard. Don't make it any harder by giving the judge negative things to say about you.

About the Author

John Kuhnlein

Since 1992, I have been helping the people of Southern Arizona get the benefits they are due. Before devoting all my efforts to assisting people with Social Security disability claims, I also handled such complex lawsuits as medical malpractice and products liability. I brought to my Social Security cases all the skills and attention to detail that I developed in the courtroom. I approach each Social Security disability case as if it were a million-dollar lawsuit. For the people trying to get Social Security benefits, their claim is every bit as important. Because I have personally handled so many Social Security cases, I have refined the skills I need to win your case for you. I have helped people win cases for every kind of ailment from arthritis to valley fever. At present, I am focused on helping those persons with neurological and orthopedic disorders. Because claims for people over age fifty bring additional complications, I particularly seek out those cases to work on. I regularly write about back and spine conditions on my blog. I actively seek out the latest information about orthopedic and neurological disorders to ensure I can represent my clients as effectively as possible. Because of my current focus, I regret that I am not able to take any cases for mental disorders. If you are over age fifty and suffer from any orthopedic or neurological disorder, please contact me at once.


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John Kuhnlein has been assisting people with Social Security disability claims for the past 25+ years.

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