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Hi... I posted the information below in the CFS/FM section of the BB in response to requests for help. Poet then suggested I repost them here, so... here ya go!
*-*-*Winning Your Disability Case with the Help of Co-Workers, Family Members and Friends [Affadavits are Important]by Scott E. Davis, Disability AttorneyImmuneSupport.com09-21-2001 In a social security disability claim, the credibility of the client is often the determining factor of whether the claim is approved or denied. For cases involving chronic pain or fatigue, such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, the credibility of the client is usually crucial to success. The reason for this of course is due to the fact that those diagnoses involve subjective symptoms and limitations that usually cannot be objectively quantified by medical or laboratory tests. Thus, SSA and judges will listen to the client�s story about why they are unable to work due to the frequency, severity and duration of their symptoms; but they will also look for corroborating evidence from other sources such as doctors or individuals who know the client. As you may know, my practice is exclusively disability law and I specialize in chronic pain and fatigue cases representing clients throughout the United States. Over the past several years I have been very successful in winning disability cases before SSA and judges throughout the United States. While winning hundreds of cases and losing only a small percentage of them, I have learned a great deal about how to win chronic pain and fatigue disability cases as well as the importance of a client�s credibility. A tool I have used extensively for the past several years is to obtain affidavits or statements from a client�s former co-worker (or preferably a supervisor), family member or long-time friends. What is an affidavit? It is simply a notarized document that essentially is a narrative letter regarding a person�s observations of problems the client has functioning on a daily basis due the symptoms and limitations, with a conclusion that they are unable to work in any occupation as a result. In my opinion, it is essential that SSA and a judge have corroborating evidence from those who know a client the best and the affidavit performs that function. Because I view a client�s credibility as paramount to the case, I want to protect it, develop it and support it from as many different independent sources as possible. The quality of the affidavits or statements and from whom they are from matters more than having a large volume of them by people who do not know the client well. I know thoughtful affidavits have a big impact on SSA and judges because I have seen countless judges from all over the country reference them as a reason why they approved my client�s claim. I have also talked with judges after a hearing and they have told me the affidavits provided persuasive support of my client�s allegations regarding their limitations. It must be noted that it is unlikely an affidavit alone will win a disability case; but along with other corroborating medical records and doctor�s opinions it can be a powerful tool. Use this article as a foundation for developing this important part of your claim. Tip #1 The Affidavit should be Brief To avoid lulling weary SSA personnel or a judge to sleep, I believe the affidavit should be no more than two (2) pages in length. Please remember your file will contain several hundreds of pages of records�you want the affidavit to be read and be factored into your claim. Tip #2 The Affidavit should be on regular paper and be Notarized The document itself can be on any regular paper (preferably 8 � x 11 inches), preferably typewritten and should be titled �Affidavit.� However, any paper will do and a handwritten one is better than nothing. It should be notarized because this will confirm that the person who purported to draft the affidavit actually signed it before a notary public. The notary stamp and signature should go at the end of the text and after your signature (remember not to sign it until you are before the notary!). Having the affidavit notarized eliminates any question with regard to authenticity of the document (i.e. you are not trying to pull one over on SSA or a judge!). If it is not possible to obtain a notary then simply submit a handwritten statement. Tip #3 The Content of the Affidavit is Critical The contents of the affidavit determine whether it is a piece of evidence that will be persuasive in the case. The affidavit should always conclude with a sentence that the client is unable to engage in any occupation and due to what reasons. The contents should be organized by paragraph, numbered and should discuss the following in a separate paragraph or less: the background of the person making the affidavit (i.e. occupational status and title, address); how long they have known the client, how they met (family, work, friends), and how often they have in person or telephone contact; discuss what the client�s activity/work (work ethic) level was like before they became unable to work. The bulk of the affidavit and several paragraphs should be devoted to discussing the physical or psychological changes that the client exhibited at the time they last worked (i.e. observations of chronic pain and fatigue, spending days in bed, dramatic changes in appearance, lack of stamina, absences from work, being unreliable); discuss the physical limitations they have (the ability to sit, stand, walk, or do anything for only short periods of time); a medical treatment/medications/therapy they have tried without success; discuss how limited the are in activities of daily living. The last two (2) paragraphs must conclude with a statement that due to the above discussed reasons the client is not able to work in any occupation and that you are willing to discuss your affidavit with the judge if necessary. Tip #4 How Many Affidavits should you Obtain? With regard to quantity, less is better, the nature of the relationship with the client and content of the affidavit are the issues. I like to obtain as many as we can from former co-workers or supervisors. Then I like to obtain one from a spouse or long-time significant other, family members and then finally long-time friends. Generally, the complete story of the client can be told with three (3) or at most four (4) affidavits from those people who know them the best. Best of luck in your pursuit of disability benefits and remember never to quit! Scott E. Davis is a social security and long-term disability insurance attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Davis represents clients throughout the United States. Although Mr. Davis has experience representing clients with a broad spectrum of physical and/or psychological disorders, the majority of his practice is devoted to representing individuals with chronic pain and chronic fatigue disorders. In almost every case, a fee is charged only if his client obtains benefits. Mr. Davis invites your questions and inquiries regarding representation via telephone (602) 482-4300, or email: harris.davis###azbar.org.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
...and these two as well... I hope they can help someone out...
*-*-*Obtaining Disability Benefits - David versus Goliath?by By Disability Attorney Scott E. Davis. ImmuneSupport.com06-01-1999 Remember the epic battle between David and Goliath. On paper, David clearly had no chance to win, fortunately his heart and soul did not know it and with determination, persistence and divine intervention he prevailed! Ever wonder what might have happened if he was aware of his predicament? Would he have fought or ran the other way? Every day at the Social Security Administration (SSA), seemingly epic battles between disability claimants and SSA are fought. The Bounty? Disability benefits. The battle unfolds like this: you become unable to work due to a physical and/or mental illness and apply for disability benefits. After all, you've paid into the system all these years for this exact situation. Heck, even your doctor says you can't work. You figure it is simply a matter of completing paperwork and time until you begin receiving benefits. . .but for now you are starting to experience financial problems. As the months go by without an answer, you reassure yourself this must be a simple case and the delay is "due to government bureaucracy." After several more months your frustration grows, you call SSA and get no answers, or worse, the ones you get are all different! The bureaucrats you spoke with were rude and put off by your phone call. You remind yourself SSA is on your side. It's job is to help people like yourself by paying disability benefits, right? But. . .you begin to feel like David. The Big Day. . . You finally receive an envelope from SSA, tear it open to find a benefit check and instead read: "We have Denied your claim for disability benefits as our trained staff and medical doctors have determined you are not disabled under our laws." You're angered, frustrated, scared, intimidated and now overwhelmed by the thought of fighting Goliath. . .the Federal Government. Pages into the decision it mentions appeal rights, but the decision seemed so final and left you with no hope. You do not know the law, the system and even if it is worth it or how to fight. Your alone and defeated. . .exactly how SSA wants you to feel! As a disability attorney I meet with clients everyday who tell me this same story. Fortunately, those clients took the bold step of appealing the denial and fighting for benefits. What should you do. . .Persevere! 75% of all disability applicants initially will be denied benefits! Half of those denied will give up and not appeal the denial! However, 53% of the applicants who persevere to a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge obtain benefits! Now you understand how the system works, it is designed to deny benefits to as many people as possible. SSA denies initial applications because it knows 50% of the people will give up and not appeal! But for those who persevere and appeal the denials, the majority are eventually granted benefits. Understanding the System 1. Initial application - Every claim for disability benefits begins with the initial application. 75% of all applicants are denied at this step. SSA looks for a reason to deny benefits. The decision is based on forms you completed and medical records, you won't meet with anyone involved in making the decision. It is surprising when anyone wins at this step. Don't quit--You must appeal a denial within 60 days. 2. Reconsideration - The second step in the system but the results are worse. 82% of all applicants are denied at this level. SSA reviews your file again and issues a denial, unfortunately it may take months to receive. At this step, only 50% of the original applicants are still in the system, the rest gave up. Appeal the denial immediately. Up to this point in the system you have been a social security number and a file. 3. Request for Hearing before Administrative Law Judge - Congratulations! You have persevered in the system and now have a good chance to win benefits. 53% of all claimants win at this stage! Why? Primarily because your claim is entitled to a de novo or new review by a Judge who knows the law and does not work for SSA. Also, you get to testify before the Judge about your inability to work and she/he assesses your credibility. Finally, hopefully you have obtained opinions from your doctors about your inability to work. You must win your case at the hearing stage; if you do not, you can appeal but your claim will be tied up perhaps for years with the likelihood of success dramatically reduced. Increase your odds of Winning Now that you have an understanding of how the system works, here are some tips on how you can maximize your chance for success. 1. Appeal every Denial - It bears repeating, DO NOT QUIT after receiving a denial. Now you understand you must get to a hearing. Up to that point SSA and the odds are overwhelmingly against you - receiving a denial may be cause to celebrate because your a step closer to a hearing. 2. Retain a Disability Attorney - Retaining an attorney who specializes in disability law should substantially increase your odds of winning. Most claimants have no idea what they need to prove to win their case. Practically all disability attorneys work on a contingency fee - you only pay a fee if you win your case. Also, Federal law sets the maximum amount the fee can be in your case. An attorney will develop your case by obtaining the necessary medical and vocational records and opinions from your doctors that are critical in proving disability. 3. Completing Social Security Forms - You will complete a dizzying array of forms requesting all sorts of information. Be honest and very brief when completing forms. You won't win your case with the information you give on the forms but you could lose it. 4. Involve your Treating Physician - Your treating physician is critical to success. Judges give a treating physician's opinion regarding a patients' disability tremendous weight. If your physician is not sympathetic to your claim you may want to make a change to one who is. The purpose of this article is to convey hope that you can win your case and obtain benefits with perseverance and knowledge of the system. Please do not give up. . . appeal and keep fighting! Scott E. Davis is a social security and long-term disability insurance attorney in Scottsdale, Arizona. The majority of his disability practice is devoted to representing individuals with FMS and/or CFIDS. Scott has extensive experience in handling FMS/CFIDS cases and does represent individuals throughout the United States. In most cases he charges a fee only if his client obtains benefits. He invites your questions and inquiries regarding representation at (602)482-4300, or via email: harris.davis###azbar.org. *-*-*And...*-*-*Completing Disability Forms: Five Critical Tips to Keep in Mind for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia PatientsImmuneSupport.com04-15-2002 By Scott E. Davis, Esq. Perhaps one of the most confusing aspects of winning a Social Security (SSA) disability claim is completing the array of forms during the process. A question you will inevitably ask is, "Does SSA look at my forms and can they alone win or lose my case?" My experience is that SSA and/or judges don't usually approve your case based on what you say on the forms. However, they often use what is said in the forms to support a denial of your claim. This is because if SSA or a judge is going to approve your claim, they will base it on more compelling objective evidence such as medical records and/or treating physicians� opinions regarding your inability to work. Unfortunately, I have seen what appeared to be an innocent statement by a claimant be the evidence used by the judge to deny the claim. The inherent problem you have as a claimant is twofold. First, with all due respect, you don�t know what you need to prove in order to win your case. Second, you have spent the past several months or years consistently downplaying the severity of your medical problems to anyone you thought was listening (i.e. your employer, family, friends, doctors and SSA). Even though you are constantly in excruciating pain or exhausted; nobody wants to be viewed by others as a whiner. Sound familiar? Studies consistently show that Americans are more productive and annually work longer hours than workers in any other country; consequently, it isn�t fashionable to complain. Instead, Americans "grin and bear it" or we follow the British and keep the proverbial "stiff upper lip." All too often, your denial mechanism rears its ugly head when you complete SSA forms. The result is that you consistently overstate what you are capable of doing and understate the severity of your symptoms and limitations. Does this also sound familiar? The problem is that the aforementioned disability strategy may likely kill your chances of winning your SSA case without you even knowing it. By following these tips when completing SSA�s forms you should significantly reduce the likelihood of making a serious mistake that comes back to bite you in the you-know-what! Tip #1: You�re not Danielle Steele � Please don�t write a Book! Certainly you remember the advice your parents gave you as a teenager � the more you say, the more its gets you in trouble! This is not the time to become a novelist! This clearly applies to completing SSA forms. SSA does not give you a lot of room to answer the questions and that is good. Limit your answers to the space that has been provided in the question and do not write in the margins or attach additional sheets of paper. Always answer the question honestly, but keep your answers brief and to the point. Tip #2: Presume you are having a bad day when providing answers Remember, a critical issue in a social security disability case is always what activity level are you capable of sustaining on a regular and continuing basis (i.e., a 5 day work week). The issue is never what you can do for only one day. Clearly, almost everyone is capable of performing some activities for one day such that it would make them appear to be capable of working. Never forget...the issue is always what level of activity you can sustain on a daily basis, week after week. Why should you assume you are having a bad day? Simply put, if you were back working on a sustained basis, most likely every day would be a bad day. Answering as if you're having a bad day is not only an honest answer but is also a more accurate assessment of what activity level you can sustain. Following this tip will avoid the problem of overestimating what you are capable of doing. It will also keep your denial mechanism honest. Tip #3: The Big Three - Always focus on the "frequency, severity and duration" of your symptoms and limitations Another critical issue in a social security disability case is your symptoms and limitations (e.g., pain, fatigue, concentration problems, inability to maintain any activity for a reasonable period). Always remember, you are unable to work due to the frequency, severity and duration of your symptoms and limitations, and not due to a diagnosis. You should mention all the diagnoses that have even a small impact on your inability to work, but you should use 5% of the allotted space to reference diagnoses and 95% to discuss The Big Three and how they limit not only your ability to work but also your ability to function on a daily basis. Tip #4: Completely resist the urge to be the perfectionist you are! Before you became ill you were probably an organized perfectionist who was incredibly productive. Everything in your life had its place; I know it kills you it is not that way now. However, this is not the time to be a compulsive, organized perfectionist! Please don�t use SSA forms as a launching pad to organize your life. One of the hallmarks of your inability to work is your concentration problems, memory impairment and brain fog. Your life is now an unorganized mess. Guess what? SSA needs to see the real you and not a top notch administrative assistant who is articulate and possesses phenomenal organizational and typing skills. Please do not typewrite your answers. Always handwrite them even if your answers become illegible. The clarity of your handwriting and the way you answer the questions tells a lot about the severity of your concentration and memory problems. Many clients tell me that little by little, it took them days to complete some SSA forms. Your goal should be to have your answers look like it took you days. In fact, if it did take you days, make sure you tell SSA that somewhere on the form. I have an interesting story for you on this subject. Several years ago I represented a woman who was at one time an outstanding legal secretary. We eventually won her claim before a judge. However, before she retained me and prior to the judge, her claim was actually recommended for approval at an earlier level of review by SSA. Unknown to the client, SSA overturned its own decision and denied her claim. Why? Because she did a marvelous job typing her answers on the forms. There were no typos and the forms were perfectly organized. A reviewing SSA psychiatrist was so impressed with her work he wanted to hire her! He concluded her memory and concentration problems could not be as severe as she was alleging. His opinion was the forms proved she was capable of performing a simple, sit down job and her claim was denied. We were fortunate to have a judge who overlooked the forms and instead listened to her entire story. However, you may not be so fortunate�so don�t take any chances. Tip #5: If psychological issues play even a small part in preventing you from working, you must allege them on the forms Although the primary reason you are unable to work may be due to a physical diagnosis, don�t overlook the psychological issues that often arise after years of dealing with chronic pain and fatigue. You want to win your case anyway you can, whether it is due to physical or psychological problems, or quite frequently, a combination of both. My experience in successfully representing chronic pain and chronic fatigue clients all over the country suggests that psychological issues are frequently a significant factor in why many people are unable to work. To totally ignore this fact can be detrimental not only to your well being, but may also cause you to lose your SSA disability claim! A Social Security judge recently told me that he hates it when a disability attorney "fails to give me several doors to use if I want to approve a case." He believes that using only one door for claim approval is tantamount to the "attorney driving their client off a cliff." I totally agree with the judge. Please don't let this happen to you; you have too much at stake! What did the judge mean? Simply put, judges like to have several medical conditions to choose from if they want to approve your claim. For example, if a judge believes your claim is not strong enough to be approved based only on your physical diagnosis, they want the option to approve your claim based on another diagnosis, perhaps psychological. What prevents the judge from simply approving it based on a psychological diagnosis? The problem is you never told SSA on any of the forms you completed that you believed a psychological condition was at least in part responsible for why you can�t work! Thus, a door that could have used to approve your claim does not exist; consequently, the judge has no choice but to deny your claim. This scenario is terribly unfortunate because your claim was denied when the judge was looking for a way to approve it! The solution is to tell SSA early, often and consistently that you believe a psychological diagnosis plays a part in your inability to work. It is fine to state that it is �secondary to� or �as a result of� dealing with your chronic physical symptoms and limitations. At the end of the day, you want to win your case anyway you can. I know this is true because all over the country I see it in my client�s eyes on the day of the hearing. SSA�s monthly benefit check and health insurance benefits mean the same to you regardless of what diagnosis was used to approve your claim. Remember, proper preparation as well as understanding what you need to prove and how you need to prove it are critical to winning your case. By following these tips, you should avoid making a mistake that you later regret. Keep fighting for the benefits you deserve and don�t quit! Scott E. Davis is a social security and long-term disability insurance attorney in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Davis represents clients throughout the United States. Although Mr. Davis has experience representing clients with a broad spectrum of physical and/or psychological disorders, the majority of his disability practice is devoted to representing individuals with chronic pain and chronic fatigue disorders. In almost every case, a fee is charged only if his client obtains benefits. Mr. Davis invites your questions and inquiries regarding representation via telephone (602) 482-4300, or email: info###scottdavispc.com � 2002 Scott E. Davis, Esq. All Rights Reserved.
 
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