Every claimant thinks they have a “slam dunk” case because they live their “disability” every day. However, a lot of conditions, even if visible, require documentation to show how “limiting” things are for you.
So having a serious diagnosis doesn’t always mean a win. Because of that, attorneys are very selective in which cases they will take in for representation.
Before we get into the list of reasons, understand that attorneys don’t like rejecting cases.
It’s how we pay the bills!
Just like you, we support a lot of people, not just us. There are secretaries, clerks, receptionists, etc.
So when we are selective about cases, we are also making “financial” decisions along with the need to always present a viable case in court. Judges can really hold a grudge against attorneys who bring “bad” cases in front of them.
An attorney’s decision to reject your case shouldn’t always be taken as a bad thing
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There are many “blessings-in-disguise” when you get a rejection, even though it doesn’t look that way at the time.
I will explain a little more about that as we go through the list of reasons attorneys reject cases.
For now, think of a rejection as a “thermometer” for your case.
If an attorney is saying no to your case, it means there are things wrong with it that may need fixing before it’s accepted.
But don’t stick to the first rejection.
Still get a second opinion because what one attorney may think is a problem, another one can see it differently. However, if the “second opinion” also rejected your case, then you really need to pay attention to what needs to be done to improve it to the point of being a viable case.
When an Attorney Takes Your Case
Now if an attorney is taking the case, it doesn’t mean it’s a winning case either. It just means the case has “good bones“. By good bones, I mean that it has the “makings” of a good case. It will still need to be worked on to ensure it’s a winner.
A slam-dunk case always gets awarded right away. The person files and wins without the help of anyone. The diagnosis, the records, age, etc., all worked in the person’s favor.
If your claim was denied by Social Security, it means it needs work. It could be it needs more films to support the claim or more specialists opinions. But it needs to be improved in order to be a winning case.
So, let’s get to the reasons attorneys are rejecting your case and what to do to make it an acceptable case.
4 Reasons Why Attorneys Are Rejecting Your Case
Reason 1 – You are not getting any medical treatment or simply not enough to support the claim.
A lot of claimants file their claim and wish to base their claim on diagnosis and medical records from years ago.
It’s not uncommon for me to get a call here and there from claimants saying that they were diagnosed years ago with a condition but they are not seeing doctors now. They may lack insurance or just never bothered to continue seeing doctors.
While they may not be able to work because of their symptoms, if there are no doctors’ visits an attorney can’t tell how disabled you are. There is also no way to prove your disability without medical visits. And these visits need to be contemporaneous with the claim and into the future.
Start seeing doctors ASAP. If you already filed your claim, it is very likely you will be denied for the reasons listed above. If you do get denied, appeal. Even if you don’t yet have a lot of visits. As time goes by you will be building your record by visiting doctors.
Worst case scenario, you will have to go in front of the judge (years later) but at least you had all this time to build your record.
Reason 2 – Despite having doctors visits, your records do not demonstrate you are disabled.
I wish there were a “Medical Records Writing 101” in medical school so that aspiring doctors would learn how to properly document patients issues.
Most medical records software are pretty bad and doctors are not very willing to add good notes to them.
What happens in these cases is that either the information on the record is repeated over and over again, OR only “default” information is included. And when the information is updated it is mostly updated in the “historical” part of your medical record (self-reporting). We want to see updates in the “physical exam” part of the records.
The physical exam portion of the records is the most important part of the record because this is where the doctor is writing his findings after he examines you.
That’s where the “good stuff” is when assessing a winning claim. By “good stuff” I mean, the part where the severity of your impairments is usually listed.
If the doctor keeps “hitting” the default button on the computer it will simply repeat what happened on the last visit. This means that your visit today looks just like the one last month or the last 6 months.
For the judge, it’s hard to tell if your impairments are bad or not because he sees the repetitive records as your doctor not taking the time to examine you.
That’s not good!
The physical exam portion of the record is what attorneys AND judges are interested in.
If that portion of the record doesn’t show any type of examination showing severity (either of movements, levels of anxiety, numbness etc.) then all you have is a medical record that doesn’t support your claim.
This is the most common reason attorneys have to reject your case. You may have enough visits, but those visits are not reported in a way that proves your disability.
Ideally, every claimant should learn how to read their medical records. The earlier in the case, the better. That way you will see what issues your file has earlier in the process. You will also be able to have a talk with the doctor so he or she can improve some of the notes for the future.
You can start by gathering all your medical records from all your doctors from a year back up to the most recent (or earlier if your case is older). Then go over those records and see what they say in the “exam” portion of your records.
Are they actually saying how severe things are? limited range of motion? Severe symptoms of depression or decompensation?
Another way to learn if your records are actually supporting your claim is to take my online “Medical Records Reading 101 Course“.
In this course, you will learn exactly what to look for in your records to see if your doctor’s notes are clearly showing your disability and if they actually will help in your claim. You will also learn tips and tricks on how to fix all the issues you will find in your records. Simply click on the image above and you will be directed to the sign-up page.
The course is priced very reasonably so it won’t hurt the bank (Only $9.99). In the course, I go over not only physical but also mental records so you can learn how to tell if your own records are supporting your claim.
It is never too late to start fixing your records. In fact, you can start by reading my post about How to Fix Your Medical Records so you can get started.
But the sooner you learn how to read your medical records the sooner you can start working on the treatment to make sure your future records will fully support your claim.
If you have not filed your claim yet, I have the perfect book for you
The book will teach you how to prepare and file your claim with tips on how to talk to your doctor and how to organize your file like a pro.
It will also teach you how to read your medical records to make sure they support your claim. Knowing how to read your records and fixing them properly can make all the difference in your claim.
Finally, I created an exclusive Facebook group just for readers of the book so you can ask questions about the concepts you read in the book.
This is a rare opportunity!
To grab your copy, simply click on the name of the book above or the image below:
Reason 3 – Arguing and “Shooting the Messenger“
This mostly happens with cases with mental impairments but it can happen with physical disabilities too.
The claimant calls an attorney asking for help and when the attorney starts asking questions to assess the case the claimant gets “annoyed” and wants to argue with the attorney. The attorney is just trying to get enough information to see if he or she can help with the case.
Occasionally, when talking to a potential claimant we have to explain some of the basic rules for filing, etc. The claimant occasionally doesn’t like what he hears and will start yelling at the attorney who once again was just trying to explain the rules.
I call that “Shooting the Messenger“.
We don’t make the rules. Social Security and Congress do.
Attorneys have to abide by those rules and so do claimants.
When claimants start arguing with the attorney and telling him or her that they are wrong, it creates a toxic relationship and no attorney will want to be involved in that.
I once had a claimant call me and after asking some questions about the medical treatment I could tell that person did not have “proper” treatment. When I politely tried to explain that the best thing to do was to go back to the doctor and request certain testing etc., this person started yelling at me and telling me to “go back to my country“!
Yes, I have an accent because I grew up overseas but I was born in the U.S. so telling me to go back to my country meant going back to Utah!
Sorry, but I can’t handle the snow.
And why yell at the person whom you are asking for help? Especially when I was telling him exactly what he needed to win the case?
It doesn’t help to argue with the attorney about why your case is a winning case when some of your answers are telling the attorney otherwise. Invariably, people who are arguing with a potential attorney in the first 5 minutes of talking are a big “red flag” for the attorney.
Very likely we will decline to represent that claimant because if in 5 minutes he is arguing with us, imagine having to represent this claimant for a year or more!
Even if it’s a good case!
Another thing to watch out for is arguing with your doctor. They WILL write about that in your medical file and the attorney AND judge WILL see it.
No attorney will take a case (especially physical) where the claimant is arguing with the doctor or a nurse, or calling and yelling at the doctor for medications etc. It becomes an “unsympathetic” case and judges don’t care for that either.
There are exceptions in mental impairment cases where that can actually help.
But the attorney will have to review this file very closely to make sure it’s part of the impairment as opposed to a “natural jerk“.
When calling an attorney, first hear what he has to say about your case and the rules. His or her assessment can save you years of stress and anguish.
It is not uncommon to see cases dragging for years and years in various levels of appeal and the claimant just wants to keep appealing not realizing that he or she is wasting time because the medical records will never prove their case. Or that the rules simply don’t apply to this situation or that case.
But arguing with an attorney BEFORE you have a chance to hear what he has to say only hurts YOU!
We do understand that not all people will get along. Personalities can be conflicting.
I sometimes get people who don’t like my “direct” approach. I don’t like sugar coating or giving false hope. Other times people love it because I “tell it like it is” and they now have a clear map of what they need to do to get on the right track.
I find that it is more efficient to tell people the truth even if it’s not what they want to hear.
Yes, I do it politely!
You have seen my posts. That’s my voice, right here.
The idea is to find an attorney that you feel matches your personality.
Now, if you know you have a tendency to argue, especially if you have a mental impairment, have a friend call when you are looking for an attorney. The attorney can speak with both via conference call or speaker. Your friend will then be able to stop you if you are going to get argumentative before you hear what the attorney has to say.
Understand that there is a reason why you want an attorney:
You are emotional. Your disability hurts or it’s very stressful. You want to be heard. You want your disability to be “recognized“. You want “affirmation“.
I get that.
But the reason you want an attorney is because you want someone who is not emotionally attached to the claim. We have a job. That job is to win your case.
If we get emotional we can’t do our job. Our views get blurred and we can’t be objective. You want someone who will do the best they can to win your case.
Emotional attorneys can actually hurt your case.
Their emotion shows during arguments and hearing briefs. Judges start noticing that and they usually don’t like it.
So when you see that the attorney is a little “dry” about things it’s not that we don’t care. We do.
But you are hiring us for one goal only: to win the case. We can’t hold hands and we can’t be your psychiatrist.
But you “bet your hat” we will fight for your claim! (in cheesy attorney commercial voice).
Just don’t shoot the messenger, please!
Reason 4: You filed your case a little too early
Attorneys will usually tell you to call them once you get your first denial. There are several reasons why:
The first reason is that you may get approved quickly and if you hire an attorney he or she may do the work and not get paid.
This is because of how the payment system works for attorneys. Or the attorney will get a large fee for basically just taking the case and sending in some forms. This creates an awkward situation since the government pays the attorney directly and based on the accrued back benefit.
The second reason is that you recently stopped working and filed right after quitting.
Understand that there is a 12-month rule regarding how long your impairments have lasted or are expected to last to assess your disability. This post will explain a little more about that rule.
Just know that the clock will start ticking from the date you stopped working. This means that if you just quit you are more likely to get denied because your condition has not lasted 12 months from the time you stopped working.
While there are impairments that may have started years before you quit, the truth is that you were working.
Social Security is interested in knowing (by waiting the 12 months) to see why this time your medical condition is different compared to the many years you have worked with the same impairment.
This does not mean you cannot file the claim right away.
In very specific cases you CAN be awarded soon after filing and soon after quitting. But these impairments are few and far between and it is not the norm in the average disability case (Spinal issues, Depression, Cardiac, among others).
Once you are denied, then you should call an attorney again to evaluate your claim and see what your chances are.
I hope this clarifies a few things on why your case was rejected when you tried getting an attorney to take your case.
It’s never personal.
Like I said before, attorneys don’t like rejecting cases. But if you follow these tips you will greatly increase your chances to get accepted and eventually winning your case.
That’s all we want.
For more courses from Realtactics click here or the Courses tab at the top of the page.
If you prefer reading a book to learn the process, my book Real Tactics for Filing Your Disability Claim may be just what you need to start on the right track.
Simply click on the image below and you will be directed to the book page:
Until next time,