Proving the disabling impact of your symptoms at your Social Security disability benefits hearing

Are you unable to work because of the disabling symptoms of your medical condition (e.g., shortness of breath, pain, vertigo, fatigue)? Was your application for Connecticut Social Security disability benefits or your request for reconsideration denied? One possible reason for a denial of disability benefits is the difficulty many claimants have in describing the disabling impact of their symptoms in the paperwork submitted to the Social Security Administration. If, for example, pain is a symptom of your impairment, you may find it difficult to convey, in writing, the true nature and intensity of the pain you are feeling; pain is particularly hard to describe because it is so subjective. Consequently, whether you ultimately are awarded Connecticut Social Security disability benefits may depend on whether you are able to accurately describe the disabling nature of your symptoms to the administrative law judge at your Social Security disability benefits hearing.

Give detailed testimony

At some point during your Connecticut disability benefits hearing, the administrative law judge will ask about your functional capabilities (i.e., your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, etc.) and about your daily activities. This is your best opportunity to describe your symptoms and persuade the judge that your symptoms are, in fact, disabling. The more details you provide, the more persuasive your testimony will be.

One way to provide the necessary details is through personal anecdotes. For example, if shortness of breath is your most troubling symptom, you could simply tell the judge “I have shortness of breath.” That type of testimony, however, is much weaker than telling the judge how your shortness of breath impacts your daily activities. Consider, for example, the following detailed, and much stronger, testimony: “I can never seem to catch my breath any more. I used to babysit my grandchildren every day after school and all day during the summer months. Recently, though, my daughter has had to make other arrangements because I can’t keep up with them, even for short periods of time, and even in the confines of the house. I can no longer climb the stairs in my own home without wheezing, so I sleep propped up on the living room couch every night. Last month, I decided to walk to the library, which is only three blocks from my home. By the time I arrived, I was gasping for breath and feeling dizzy. I called a cab to take me home, and then rested on the couch for the entire afternoon.”

Monitor your symptoms with a diary

As a practical matter, there is likely to be a long delay between the date of your initial application for Connecticut Social Security disability benefits and the date of your disability benefits hearing. Even if you have an excellent memory, keeping a written record of your symptoms will help you give stronger and more accurate testimony.

A “symptom diary” is a useful tool for tracking when and how your symptoms affect your daily activities. A “symptom diary” may take many forms, including, for example, a journal; a wall calendar; a small, portable calendar; a chart; or a spreadsheet. The nature of your symptoms likely will dictate the best type of diary for your case, but any means of routinely recording your symptoms will suffice. A pain diary, for example, might take the form of a journal, in which you begin each day with a blank sheet of paper, and you record, each day, where the pain is localized; the intensity, frequency and duration of the pain; the trigger for the pain; and the source of relief.

A Hartford disability benefits lawyer can help you prepare

Most people who apply for Connecticut Social Security disability benefits are more than a little anxious about testifying in front of the administrative law judge. In our experience, the best way to overcome this anxiety is to remove the fear of the unknown. At Michael F. Magistrali & Associates, we make sure our disability clients are comfortable with the hearing process well before their hearing date arrives. Because they know what to expect, our Connecticut disability clients are able to relax and give their best testimony.

If you would like to talk with an experienced Connecticut disability lawyer about your symptoms or your disability benefits hearing, please take a moment to fill out the Free Claim Evaluation form to your right.

Michael F. Magistrali
Greater Hartford disability lawyer
Serving Connecticut and western Massachusetts

Phone: (860)-626-0777
Toll Free: (800)-330-9921

Michael F. Magistrali & Assoc., LLC
400 Prospect Street
Torrington, CT 06790