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Tucson Social Security Disability Blog

Why Doesn't Social Security Believe Me?

Posted by John Kuhnlein | Jul 14, 2016 | 0 Comments

Once I file a person's request for hearing, Social Security gives me access to that person's entire file. One of the most interesting documents is called the Disability Determination Explanation (DDE.) The DDE is a summary of the process Disability Determination Services (DDS) went through before denying a person's claim.  

Everyone Is Partially Credible

Which One Is It?

One section of the DDE asks the disability examiner (DE) to rate the claimants credibility. I have looked at hundreds and hundreds of DDE's. I have never once seen one where the claimant was consider more that "partially credible." No matter what medical problems the claimant has and no matter how well her physicians have documented those medical conditions, the claimant is never any better than partially credible. I wonder in idle moments what it would take for someone to be fully credible.

A New Ruling On Assessing Credibility

This might be of only passing interest except for the fact that Administrative Law Judges also must evaluate an claimant's credibility. At this level, at least, Social Security is trying to make this part of the process uniform. A new Social Security Ruling, SSR 16-3p, tells judges they have to focus on a claimant's symptoms to determine if the claimant is presenting a true picture of his condition. 16-3p is designed to eliminate a bad habit too many ALJ's have developed over the years. This bad habit found ALJ's simply dismissing a claimant's credibility summarily. Often, ALJ's would do this by flippantly stating that the claimant's medical condition was not "fully supported" by the medical evidence. Conversely, an ALJ might find that the claimant was "not as disabled as he claimed" due to the claimants ability to do things like cook or shop (or even eat, in one egregious case.)

Will ALJ's Comply?

If the ALJ's follow the dictates of 16-3p (we'll see), we should see much better decisions. No longer can an ALJ simply write off a claimant's subjective symptoms by what amounts to "I don't believe this lady." An ALJ is going to have to work a whole lot harder to write off a claimant as not credible. That ALJ might conclude it's easier to just evaluate the evidence.

One interesting aspect of 16-3p is that Social Security now forbids ALJ's to dismiss a claimant's overall character based on extraneous evidence such as appearance, education, living arrangements, and the like.  An ALJ's assessment of credibility has to be based on specific evidence in the file and nowhere else.

I fear that ALJ's will quickly find new language to use in decisions that technically comports with 16-3p while evading it's requirements. Human nature being what is it, if the ALJ does not believe a claimant, he will find a way to say that he is not credible.

If you can think of some way to be completely credible with Social Security, please let me know. 

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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