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If you have applied and been denied Social Security Disability benefits in the Memphis mid south region including Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, then you probably also want to know why you need a Heermans Disability Attorney. Repeated denials of disability benefits can leave you facing either giving up or going to court. This all sounds very scary to most of us, but Mr. Heermans of Heermans Disability Law Firm says, “It’s all in a day’s work for our team.” Let’s look at this example of when the U.S. District Judge Kyle C. Dudek for the Middle District of Florida reversed and remanded an (Administrative Law Judge) ALJ’s denial of disability and insurance benefits. We will get a greater understanding of what a Heermans attorney does for their clients when facing a court appeal. 

The filer applied for child disability benefits in 2020, which are for those whose parents have worked and earned enough Social Security work credits and are entitled to benefits. The applicant alleged that their illness began in June of 1999, just after he turned 18, claiming he couldn’t work due to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, head trauma, and asthma.

At a hearing, the ALJ determined there were no medical signs or laboratory findings to support that there was a medically valid or determinable impairment before the applicant turned 22, and that there was a lack of evidence to establish he had “a medically valid or determinable impairment of sufficient length of time to qualify as severe under the regulations during the relevant period.” But, there was an obscure expert report from 2016 that was contained in his record, which wasn’t a mandatory part of the record, and it directly contradicted that finding.

“It isn’t clear why the 2016 form is in the record, because, according to the Government, it is unnecessary to the ALJ’s decision. And no one explains why the form was included, nor convincingly explains why the Court should turn a blind eye to its contents,” the judge wrote when he overturned the ALJ’s decision…what does all this mean? It means that every single piece of paper, email, report, lab result, witness statement, doctor visit, etc…is IMPORTANT to your Heermans attorney and your disability case. It could be the difference between being awarded benefits or missing out on them. 

Appellate Courts and SSD Reviews

Before the pandemic, Administrative Law Judge review was what SSI disability lawyers in Memphis like to call a de novo review. ALJ’s try to pay little regard to prior results and look at everything with fresh eyes. Then, by 2022 the SSA had well-documented problems dealing with the pandemic backlog. This put an increase in pressure to speed cases through the ALJ’s  (Administrative Law Judge) last leg of the system.

Increasingly, an ALJ is more like a dad. Assume Junior wants something, Mom says no, and Junior appeals to Dad. Unless she was way out of line, Dad always backs Mom. Trust us, we know how that works. Likewise, if the DDS (Disability Determination Services) review looks pretty good, the ALJ backs the DDS.

So, to get a full and fair review, a Heermans SSI lawyer near you may have to take the matter a step further, to a federal court. This extra step lengthens an already long process. 

This long process usually includes two DDS reviews, in addition to an ALJ review. A novice DDS officer first examines the medical records and other paperwork in the case before approving or denying the claim. A senior DDS officer is like the big brother in our hypothetical family. Big brother usually backs little brother…usually, but not always.

Before the pandemic, many disability claims settled before the ALJ hearing. But because of the claims backlog and the hiring and training of new SSA employees, the boat has been rocked and the balance of power shifted. Now, that power shift typically doesn’t happen until the claim “leaves the family” and goes to an independent federal court.

The good news is that most remand awards include back benefits, no matter how long the case took to resolve. Therefore, an applicant has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by appealing an ALJ denial to a federal court.

Federal court decisions usually don’t end cases. Instead, a federal judge tends to throw out the prior judgments and sends the matter back to the ALJ. This remand usually includes handling instructions which greatly favor the applicant.

Building the Record

Initially, a disability application’s record is little more than the medical bills. As the application moves through the process, the file gets bigger. As we said earlier, knowing what to include, and how to include it, could be the key to victory at a federal court hearing.

Usually, assembling the record includes ordering the trial transcript. The transcript includes all witness testimony, attorney arguments, judicial rulings, and physical evidence. But ALJ hearings are private trials. No court reporter is present. So, a Heermans SSI law firm must build the record from the ground up. Furthermore, attorneys have considerable discretion as to the inclusion and order of what is being presented.

For example, there’s a difference between testimonial and non-testimonial expert reports. The first category must be included in the record, since the expert testified at trial. The second category is optional. Including an non-testimonial report, or leaving it out, could make a big difference in the outcome. Presentation matters as well. If a social security disability lawyer wants to highlight part of the record, they will usually place it at the beginning or at the end because this is the part most people remember the best.

Formal and Informal Federal Court Procedure

If you think this judge is a stickler for procedure, you’ve probably never seen federal judges in action. Procedural rules include:

  • Legal Brief Requirements: Page limits are just the beginning. Rules in this area also include formatting and footnote requirements. If a clerk sees a brief that doesn’t look right, the clerk may refuse to add it to the file, often without telling the lawyer what was wrong with the brief.
  • Time Limits: Oral arguments during ALJ hearings are usually untimed monologues. Occasionally, the ALJ or SSA lawyer might interrupt with a comment or objection, but these interruptions are rare. Most federal courts have green, yellow, and red lights on the podium. When the red light comes on, some judges allow lawyers to complete a thought. Others interrupt lawyers mid-sentence and tell them to sit down.
  • Decorum: Most ALJs have decorum rules which include requirements like attorneys must remain seated at all times. But most ALJs don’t strictly enforce these rules. Federal judges usually run their courtroom with very clear dos and don’ts.  

Levels of Medical Reports

We mentioned the levels of expert reports above. This point is so important, we should flesh it out. 

Court rules usually distinguish among testifying, consulting, and advisory experts. Testimonial expert designations are straightforward. These individuals must testify in court, or perhaps at a deposition. Their reports, as well as any material they relied on, must be part of the record.

The line between consulting and advisory experts is hazy. Usually, consulting experts issue reports but don’t testify. Advisory experts don’t testify and don’t prepare reports. However, a “report” could be an informal email chain in some cases.

Why does all this matter? A Heermans Disability Lawyer knows there is no margin for error in federal court. Judges would gladly decide cases on procedural grounds to avoid addressing the merits. An errant footnote in a brief or a missing item front in the record could be the difference between maximum benefits and settling for less in a Social Security disability claim.

We have just covered some of the most important highlights of a Disability Attorneys Federal Court Appeal process. As you can see, there is a lot that goes into presenting and hopefully winning your case and being awarded disability financial and medical benefits. If you do not want to go it alone and need help, the award-winning Heermans Law Firm offers a no strings attached FREE Disability Evaluation

2023 Disability Awards National Top
250 Law Firm Award from the Social Security Disability Leadership

For more information about qualifying medical conditions and other important matters, contact the experienced disability lawyers near you at the Heermans Social Security Disability Law Firm 24/7 via phone or text at (901) 244-0057. More value added FREE information can be found in our online article library.


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