April 17, 2014

The Listing Strategy

The main issue in your Lupus Social Security disability case is whether your symptoms have progressed to the point where you cannot work full time.  And when Social Security considers your work capacity, they are asking whether you can do anything at all – for example, could you serve as a ticket taker at a movie theater, a hand packer at a factory, or a garment inspector at a manufacturing plant?

Many people think about disability in terms of their ability to perform their regular job, but this is not how to think about Social Security disability.  Instead, think of an easy, one or two step entry level job.  Could you perform that job eight hours a day, five days per week?

Choose a Winning Argument

There are several arguments that attorneys use to prove disability.  These include the listing argument and the functional capacity argument.  You can read about each of these arguments on this web site.    This page will discuss the listing argument and offer suggestions about how to win your Lupus case by meeting a listing.

Understanding the “Listing” Argument

Social Security’s listings are detailed descriptions of serious medical conditions.   SSA recognizes that some medical diagnoses are so serious that anyone who meets the listing is automatically disabled.  Not surprisingly, Social Security makes it very difficult to meet a listing so don’t be discouraged if your medical records do not qualify you.  Often claimants fail to meet the listing not because their condition is not serious enough but because their doctor did not follow the language of the listing exactly when writing office notes.    Your doctor’s focus, of course, is on treating you, not writing reports for Social Security – helping your doctor help you, by the way, is where a good disability lawyer can greatly improve your odds of winning.

Social Security’s Lupus listing may be found at Listing 14.02 Systemic lupus erythematosus.

In order to prove you meet this listing for Lupus, you will need Doctor’s observations and various lab tests, medical documents of the symptoms, documentation of a history of treatment, and proof that the person has actually received treatment etc.

How Experienced Lawyers Prove Listing Level Multiple Sclerosis

Lawyers who regularly practice before Social Security judges often find that a good way to prove that their clients meet this listing involves creating a checklist that tracks the listing.   A robust checklist will also include space for the treating physician to write notes, and it will include questions created by the lawyer that also focus on activity limitations.   Experienced lawyers know that physicians like this checklists because it saves time – the doctors need only check the appropriate boxes and make a few notes and they will be giving the Social Security judge or adjudicator exactly what he needs to decide a case.

Obviously it helps greatly if your treating doctor will complete a listing checklist (or will write a detailed narrative report) that supports you.  However, Social Security decision makers will also review treatment notes to confirm that the level of impairment described in the checklist also exists within the pages of the monthly treatment notes.  However, since Lupus flare-ups tend to result in declining muscle strength over time, the combination of a supportive listing-level checklist and treatment notes confirming a Lupus diagnosis and impairment in your functioning, Social Security personnel often do not question a treating doctor’s opinion.

If you would like to speak with a lawyer who understands the power and usefulness of a carefully crafted Lupus listing checklist, please fill out the case evaluation form on this website.