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Claimants’ Credibility And The Evaluation Of Symptoms

By Kenton Koszdin on October 1, 2018 | In Disease SSDI Claim

Claimants’ Credibility And The Evaluation Of Symptoms

After going through the initial process of applying for a disability benefit and being declined, claimants may go through an ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) appeal, which involves a judge rendering a verdict on whether to overturn or uphold the initial decision. There are a number of factors the judge takes into consideration, including what is referred to as claimants’ credibility and evaluation of symptoms. When the judge upholds the SSA decision, based on these factors, it can be upsetting for the claimant.

The terminology used by the courts prompted the SSA to create a new title, which states in part:

“We are eliminating the use of the term “credibility” from our sub-regulatory policy, as our regulations do not use this term. In doing so, we clarify that subjective symptom evaluation is not an examination of an individual’s character.”

Legal Background

A two-step analysis has been historically used to help establish whether a claimant’s symptoms are credible. The assessment involves first determining if the claimant suffers from an impairment (MDI) that would reasonably lead to produce the symptoms described. Secondly, whether those symptoms would result in the severity, insistence and limitations described is examined. It is in the case of the latter where credibility plays a part in the assessment.

If the ALJ calls into question the claimant’s credibility, he or she must support that conclusion. The following factors are taken into consideration during the evaluation of symptoms:

  • Claimant’s daily activities
  • Description of symptom duration, frequency and severity
  • Factors that lead to or aggravate symptoms
  • Information on medications, including side-effects
  • Information on treatments that have been or are being received to manage pain and symptoms
  • Measures, other than medication and treatment, which are taken to manage pain and symptoms
  • Any other factors surrounding limitation due to pain and symptoms

Once the ALJ has gathered this information, he or she will carry out an evaluation of symptoms and determine whether the claimant’s evidence meets the burden of credibility.

Current Analysis

It is important to note that removing the term “credibility” does not necessarily change how an ALJ considers claimants’ evaluation of symptoms. If the supporting claims are found to be inconsistent with the understood nature of the disability or condition, the ALJ may still uphold the SSA decision based on the question of credibility. Therefore, claimants who appeal a decision under the new title rules are expected to support their case in much the same way as previous claimants.

Rather than relying on a layman’s perception of legal terminology, claimants should concentrate on building a strong case that is supported by evidence. You can also improve your chances of a successful appeal by hiring an experienced disability attorney to represent you in court.

Kenton Koszdin Law Office is well versed in supporting our clients through difficult Social Security disability claims in California. If you are awaiting appeal and would like help with preparing your case, contact our offices today and speak to a member of our legal team about consultation.

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