Credibility is about how believable you are. When a claimant loses, it is often because the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decided the claimant was not believable. Sometimes the ALJ gives good reasons. Equally often, the ALJ gives reasons that are bad because they do not fit the medical evidence.
You may not assume that you will be viewed as credible. The ALJ will search for any reason at all to decide that you are not credible. The standard has become very high and it is easy for a well-intentioned claimant to misstep and lose what could have been a winnable case.
I am Sara L. Gabin, a Social Security Disability attorney who has been representing residents of Portland and nearby communities over 30 years. I am available to provide no-nonsense advice and observations on the credibility problems I think you claim may have and what you must do to rehabilitate yourself to increase the likelihood your statements will be accepted as true.Protect your credibility.
Here are some of the best ways:
- Stop using street drugs. If you need treatment, get it. No exceptions. No excuses.
- If you are alcoholic, own it and stop drinking. If you need treatment, get it. No exceptions. No excuses.
- Do not demand pain medication. Do not ask for early pain medication refills. Do not shop around at emergency rooms or elsewhere for pain medication. Getting discharged from a medical practice for prescription seeking just once is enough to sink a good case.
- Establish medical care. A lack of insurance is no excuse. Get on all public health waiting lists. An absence of consistent care is often enough to sink a claim.
- Keep all appointments. More than one “no-show” is enough to "botch" a good claim.
- State your symptoms consistently from visit to visit. Do not overstate or understate your activity level. Do not “put on a show” for your doctor. Know that your doctor and her staff are watching how you move when you do not know they are watching you. They are on the look-out for patients who exaggerate symptoms.
- Stop smoking if your doctor tells you to. No exceptions. No excuses.
- Start an exercise program as your doctor advises. No exceptions. No excuses.
- Follow-up completely with all referrals and all counseling that your doctor advises. A lack of insurance is no excuse. Get on all public health or scholarship waiting lists and make a point of documenting that you have done this.
- Do not “educate” your doctor about your illness with articles or other information you find. Do not tell your doctor what to write about you. Do not ask your doctor to rewrite any notes or letters she wrote about you.
- Do not argue with your doctor or her staff.
- Do not write long and frequent letters and emails to your doctor about your symptoms and your life.
- If the medical evidence does not show that you are disabled or if your doctor will not support your claim, accept it. It may not be time to pursue disability. This means you must shift your focus from seeking disability to seeking work your doctor thinks you can do. Go back to work, if you can.
- If you cannot perform your past work, go to vocational rehabilitation and do everything your vocational counselor asks you to do. But go to vocational rehabilitation only if you are willing to make retraining for a job your number one priority. This means you need to drop all thoughts you are too disabled to work, because that will come through as a bad attitude that will end up in the vocational counselors written observations. Bad vocational reports translate later to credibility problems. So, show-up, cooperate and retrain. Otherwise, do not bother to go to vocational rehabilitation. Your best and heartfelt efforts to retrain, with 100 percent cooperation, will help do one of two things: Actually land you a job you can do; or show clearly and without any question you are too ill to work at any job. The State of Oregon offers free vocational rehabilitation. Visit: www.oregon.gov/DHS/vr to find an office convenient to you.
There are many instances where the claimant has done nothing to deserve a bad credibility finding. Some ALJs are hostile and ill-disposed to find anyone disabled. But own your credibility. It is the most important thing about you. It is the most important element in your claim. Your credibility is too valuable to waste. Do not squander your credibility.Get Advice about Going to Reconsideration and Hearing.
As a Social Security Disability lawyer with over 30 years of experience, I have represented disabled persons in Portland and elsewhere in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Yamhill Counties at all phases of the appeals process. I am dedicated to helping you win the benefits you deserve. Contact Sara L. Gabin at (503) 620-3171 or online to discuss your case. Free consultation.