Gardberg & Kemmerly, P.C. Attorneys at Law

Social Security Disability Benefits and the Duty to Develop

If you have applied for Social Security Disability benefits and have a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the ALJ may assist you in developing your claim for disability. However, this is not something that should be relied up as it still behooves you to be on the leading edge of developing your own claim prior to seeing the ALJ. Nevertheless, this topic reminds me of a recent case I helped a client with.

The case was a children's disability claim and the mother was a single mother, working her best to provide for her family. Unfortunately, her youngest child had an eye condition that, without being awarded disability benefits meant that she was going to struggle to obtain meaningful medical care. When the mother brought her daughter's claim to our office, I had the pleasure to meet them both and discuss the potential issues in proving the disability. After reviewing the file of medical records, it appeared as though there was something missing, specifically with regard to the exact diagnosis of the eye condition as well as the child's prognosis.

A hearing was scheduled for the child just a few weeks after I first met the two. That meant we would not be able to get some very important documents from the child's physician; documents that could effectively prove that the child was disabled. At the hearing, the child's mother provided compelling testimony to the ALJ and the ALJ granted an additional 30 days to obtain statements from the client's treating doctors and, in the event that we could not obtain a conclusive narrative letter from a treating physician, the ALJ agreed to grant a request for an independent medical examination.

Without the additional thirty days, the mother would have struggled to present an effective claim for her daughter. The duty to develop claims, as stipulated by the Social Security Administration to help claimants is extremely helpful, but cannot always be relied upon. Therefore, if you have a hearing scheduled before an ALJ, do not hesitate to contact the Mobile, Alabama law firm of Gardberg & Kemmerly. We have been helping claimants for decades and would be happy to meet with you and discuss your claim in greater detail.

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