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By Diana Wade
Disability Advocate 

Why did the judge say I wasn't credible?

Ask the Advocate


In every Social Security Disability claim the Social Security Administration (SSA) or, in this case the judge, making the final decision must determine how credible or believable the claimant is regarding their limitations.  The credibility issues and subsequent analysis is extremely important in a disability claim because, face it, if the SSA believes the claimant to be fully credible then they should almost always consider the claimant to be disabled.  We are not talking about not being truthful, but rather the correct analysis of the claim by the judge.

In making a credibility determination about a claimant’s statements the SSA is supposed to refer to Social Security Ruling 96-7p. The provisions as reflected in this SSR as well as the Code of Federal Regulations provide that an individual’s symptoms, including pain, will be determined to diminish the individual’s capacity for basic work activities to the extent that the individual’s alleged functional limitations and restrictions due to symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and other evidence in the case record. 

In addition, symptoms may not be disregarded solely because they are not substantiated by objective medical evidence.  The absence of objective medical evidence is only one factor that the adjudicator must consider in assessing an individual’s credibility. 

Moreover, SSR 97-6p provides that merely because an individual’s statements are not credible is not by itself sufficient to establish that an individual is not disabled. SSR 96-7p also recognizes that a claimant’s persistent efforts to obtain relief from his or her pain or other symptoms serve to enhance his or her credibility. 

So, a longitudinal medical record with consistent subjective complaints and effort to reduce pain or other symptoms should serve only to aid a claimant in his or her effort to obtain disability benefits.  The judge must consider lay evidence in assessing the residual functional capacity.  The judge must specifically consider the side effects from the claimant’s medications.  The judge must not only consider the claimant’s allegations of pain, but detail specific reasons for his or her credibility finding in their decision. 

Failure to obtain treatment must be considered in the context of all the evidence, an adjudicator “must not draw any inferences about an individual’s symptoms and their functional effects from a failure to seek or pursue regular medical treatment” without first considering the evidence of record which may explain “infrequent or irregular medical visits or failure to seek medical treatment.”

Credibility determinations are extremely important in Social Security disability claims and a proper application of SSR 96-7p can make the difference between winning or losing a disability claim. 

Having an experienced representative who knows how to make the correct legal arguments and put forth the best claim possible, as well as rebut or enforce the proper application of SSR 96-7p, is extremely important for any Social Security disability claim.

An Accredited Disability Representative with more than 16 years experience, Diana Wade believes her clientele can be comfortable knowing that she is recognized by SSA and a charter member of NADR. To contact Ms. Wade call (661) 821-0494, email or visit .


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