Mitchell L. Pearl, Vermont Social Security Attorney, Offers Advice on How to Prove the Disabling Impact of Your Symptoms
All of my Vermont disability clients, regardless of their specific diagnoses, share one common trait: the symptoms of their impairment – the pain, fatigue, dizziness, tremors, shortness of breath, etc. – affect their daily lives to such an extent that they cannot work. In determining the outcome of your Vermont disability claim, the Social Security Administration will evaluate the nature and severity of your symptoms, using a two-tiered review process.
First Tier: Review the Objective Medical Evidence
The first tier review of your symptoms is a review of the objective medical evidence. “Objective medical evidence” is medical evidence that can be reliably documented; it includes medical test results and findings, lab reports, x-rays and scans, and other evidence that is typically found in your medical records. At this first level of review, the Social Security Administration is looking for proof that a “medically determinable impairment” could cause the symptoms you claim to have. If there is no objective medical evidence to support this, then your claim for Vermont Social Security disability benefits will be denied.
Second Tier: Review All the Evidence as a Whole
Once the fact of your symptoms is established in the first tier of the review process, the Social Security decision-maker will then consider the “intensity, persistence, or functionally limiting effects” of your symptoms. Here, the decision-maker is looking for proof that the extent to which you claim to be disabled by your symptoms is consistent with the evidence as a whole. The scope of available evidence subject to review expands to include all the evidence in your case record – the objective evidence and the subjective evidence. Your statements and the statements of witnesses in your favor will be key evidence in this regard.
- Best Evidence: Your TestimonyYour best opportunity to prove the “intensity, persistence, or functionally limiting effects” of your symptoms will be your testimony at your Vermont disability benefits hearing. This is your chance to speak directly to the person who will be deciding your Vermont Social Security claim. The more detailed your testimony is, the more persuasive it will be; the more examples you can provide, the more credible your testimony will be. For example, if your most troubling symptom is pain, you will need to paint a detailed picture of how your pain impacts your daily routine: Is the pain constant, or does it come and go? Does it vary in intensity? On a scale of 1-10, how do you rate your pain? What triggers the pain? What eases the pain? What does your pain prevent you from doing?
- Best Practice: Keep a Symptom DiaryIn almost every Vermont Social Security disability case, there is a long delay from the time an application for benefits is filed and the day of the applicant’s disability hearing. Regardless of how good your memory for details is, your testimony will suffer if you do not have a written record of how your symptoms impact your daily activities. A “symptom diary” can take many forms – a journal, a wall calendar, a pocket calendar, a spreadsheet or a handwritten chart. Any means of routinely recording your specific, disability-related symptoms can be a “symptom diary.” Some examples of symptoms you might monitor with a diary include pain, sleep disruptions, fatigue, headaches, or asthma-related symptoms or treatments. Your Vermont disability attorney can help you decide which type of diary is best for your case.
A Knowledgeable Burlington, Middlebury, and Rutland Attorney Can Help You Prepare for Your Vermont Disability Hearing
I have been representing Vermont disability claimants for over 25 years, so I know what evidence is important to the Social Security Administration in evaluating your symptoms; moreover, I know how to effectively present that evidence to the hearing judge. If you would like me to review your case, please use the form to the right to give me a brief summary of your situation.
Mitchell L. Pearl
Vermont Social Security disability attorney
Langrock Sperry & Wool, LLP
Attorneys at Law
111 S. Pleasant Street
Middlebury, Vermont 05753
Telephone (802) 388-6356
Toll free (888) 350-3644
Fax (802) 388-6149
210 College Street
Burlington, Vermont 05402
Telephone (802) 864-0217
Toll free (888) 350-3644
Fax (802) 864-0137