Element 2: Preparation for the Hearing: Submitting and Evaluating Medical Evidence
A second element of effective representation is preparation. After meeting with our client, the attorney sets in motion an individual case plan to ensure that all relevant medical evidence is submitted to the judge in a timely manner. Before the hearing the attorney will prepare a written memorandum for the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
An ALJ makes his/her decision based upon the medical evidence of record. By preparing a written, pre-hearing memorandum, we give the judge a favorable impression of our client's case. We present our client's story from a perspective that is both sympathetic and firmly grounded in medical evidence and relevant legal argument. This attorney memorandum addresses the interconnected nature of medical, testimonial, and vocational evidence. It is a "roadmap" which increases our client's overall chance of success.
Evidence considered by the ALJ at the hearing includes both written evidence and testimony taken at the hearing. Written evidence may include medical evidence, such as medical records and/or reports, and vocational evidence which describes our client's Past Relevant Work. Other important written evidence consists of an official Earnings Record, which describes how much a wage earner has earned in the past, and when the earner likely stopped working. A solid earnings background is good evidence of a Claimant's strong motivation to work.
Hearing testimony comes from the claimant, and possibly lay witnesses (which could be a relative or friend), as well as from experts. There may be Medical Experts (ME's), as well as Vocational Experts (VE's), who testify at a Claimant's hearing. (See Element 3 of Effective Representation: Advocacy Before, During and After the Hearing]
Obtaining and developing medical evidence of disability is critical to winning our client's case. Our law office advances costs for our clients, who do not have to repay us unless we are successful in obtaining disability benefits. This practice differs from some other offices, which often require their clients to pay their own costs ahead of time in order to obtain medical records. How can a client pay his or her own costs when they are unable to work, and lack spending money for ordinary living expenses? A client who has to pay his or her own costs ahead of time may find himself at a distinct disadvantage in establishing his or her disability.
Eric J. Patrick, Esq. and Richard A. Gutstadt, Esq.