Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Cox Disability Law, LLC
Representing the disabled since 1982. Accepting cases throughout Alabama and select cities in the Southeast.
Representing the disabled since 1982. Accepting cases throughout Alabama and select cities in the Southeast.


I will be speaking at a legal seminar this fall. It's a great seminar for SSDI practitioners with all levels of experience.

CLE Alabama presents . . .

Social Security Disability Law

Friday, October 28, 2016

The University of Alabama School of Law

Post has attachment
Category: Blog

5 Things Judges Look for when Deciding a Disability Case

Posted on May 12, 2016 by Jan Cox,
Social Security Disability Lawyer
Let’s say that you have been denied disability and you want to ask for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. How will your case be decided? What things do judges look for when deciding a disability case? How can you improve your chances of getting disability?

Few people understand that Social Security disability decisions are made by applying a standard legal formula, following five steps in order. If, at any step in the process, a judge can make decision to completely deny or allow disability, he or she will not continue on to assess the other factors. This legal process is known as the “sequential evaluation of disability.”

Evaluating a Social Security Disability Case

Here are the five steps, in order:

1. Is the person working?

Working means engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” This means that if the person is working and has gross wages above a certain amount, they cannot be found disabled, and will be denied disability without any consideration of medical conditions

2. Does the person have a severe impairment?

If a person’s medical condition does not cause at least some work related restrictions, the judge will deny the claim at this step. However, few people are denied at this level, and the judge moves on to the next step

3. Does the person have a medical condition that meets or equals a listed impairment?

The legal regulations for disability contain a large list of diseases and medical conditions that are presumed to be disabling. If a person has one of those diseases or medical problems described in the listings, the judge will award disability without the need to consider any other factors such as work history or age. If the person cannot be found disabled at this level, the judge will consider the next step in the process.

4. Can the person return to his or her past relevant work?

“Past relevant work” is defined in the disability rules. It means any significant work performed within the past 15 years. If a person is capable of performing any past relevant work, they will be denied disability at this step. The judge can deny the case at this level without any consideration of practical “real world” considerations such as whether the past relevant job is available or whether the person would be hired if they applied, or whether the work even exists in the area in which they live. If the person cannot return to any past relevant work, the judge moves on to the last step.

5. Is the person capable of performing any other work?

Yes, you guessed it, that term also has a specific legal definition. “Any other work” means jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. By far, this is the most complicated step in the disability evaluation process. Age, education, work experience, skill level, and transferability of skills are all combined with the classification of the persons physical and mental work restrictions to create a vocational profile. If that profile matches a job or jobs that exist in the national economy, the person will be found “not disabled”. If the profile does not match up with any of those jobs, then the person is considered “disabled” under the law. There are medical- vocational guidelines in the law that help judges make the decision at this final step. However, most judges also take testimony from a vocational expert to assist them in reaching a final decision. U.S. labor force statistics are used to identify jobs in the national economy.

At this final step in the disability evaluation process, there are legal presumptions about how a person’s age, education and skill levels affect the ability to perform work they have never performed before. For example, younger workers are presumed to be more adaptable to new and different types of jobs.

This is a general outline of the sequential evaluation of disability. There are a vast number of rules, regulations and exceptions that further define and clarify factors at each step in the sequential evaluation process. It can take many years of study and practice to really understand the disability evaluation process, and usually one only learns these regulations and exceptions by dealing with them first-hand.

If you have been denied disability by Social Security, there is something you can do. Cox and Reynolds has been handling Social Security Disability cases for more than 30 years. If we can help you turn your disability denial into an approval, give us a call at 800-930-1205.

What to Look for When Hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer?

Posted on September 4, 2015 by Jan Cox
Recently, I was interviewed by a reporter working on a story about Social Security Disability. One question was “What should a person look for when hiring a Social Security Disability Lawyer?” That’s a great question and I thought I would give some tips and questions to ask when you or a loved one needs a disability lawyer.

1. Knowledge and Experience

You’ll want to put yourself in experienced hands. The more experience, the better. Some lawyers hold themselves out as a disability lawyer when they have just a mere grasp of the most basic principles. Social Security disability is governed by federal regulations and is highly specialized. It takes years of experience and study to gain expertise. And it takes dedication to keep up with ever changing law, policies and procedures. A highly experienced lawyer may know more law than some of the Social Security Judges, particularly judges with less experience. So, look for a disability lawyer who is dedicated to this area of the law and who understands the disability process. Believe me, more often than you might think, one small factor or obscure point of law brought to light can make the difference in a favorable versus an unfavorable outcome. I’ve seen this in my own practice many times over the years.

2. Look for Free Initial Consults

Most Social Security Disability attorneys only get paid when you win your case. Therefore, most are more than willing to meet with you for a half-hour to an hour to judge how successful your case might be. After that, they may take the case on “contingency,” which means that they get paid out of the case’s earnings so you do not need to pay them directly.

Be wary of lawyers that charge a consultation fee for Social Security Disability cases. This is a signal that they may not know enough about the subject or that they may not take your case. There’s no requirement that a lawyer take a case after a consult, and paying a lawyer in advance may discourage them from taking your case.

3. Find the Right Fit

Make sure you feel comfortable talking to the lawyer. If you and your lawyer relate well, you will have a more productive hearing. Your testimony at the hearing should be more than answering stock questions. Your lawyer should ask questions of you that allow you to tell your unique story. So, effective hearing preparation requires your lawyer to learn important details from your past medical history, work history, daily activities, lifestyle changes, work ethic and the like. Genuine, compelling testimony that rings true to a judge can lead to an award of benefits in a difficult case.

4. Prepare for a Long Case

Before hiring any lawyer, I recommend requesting a free consultation to make sure he or she is someone you can trust. Social Security Disability cases, especially if not approved at the initial level, can be a lengthy process. In Alabama, the wait time for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ranges from 12 to 18 months from the date of the appeal. During this time Social Security disability claimants have enough to worry about, including health issues, family issues and financial woes, so you shouldn’t be worrying about your choice of an attorney. Finding the right lawyer to help you navigate the system and represent your best interests can give you peace of mind.

5. Does the lawyer live and regularly work in your state?

I believe it is an advantage to hire an attorney who lives and works in the state where you live. Being familiar with the preferences and policies of the ALJs allows for better hearing preparation and presentation of your case. A local attorney will be more accessible to you and should have more time to devote to each individual client. Generally speaking, representatives who fly in or travel great distances to attend hearings tend to be from very large firms that handle cases on an assembly line basis. Also, a lawyer from a “national firm” may not be as familiar with the federal case law that pertains to your particular federal circuit or jurisdiction. This is important because a skilled lawyer knows how to document the record and preserve errors in the event it is necessary to file an appeal in federal court.

For more information on finding the right social security disability lawyer or for any other questions about Social Security disability, please contact my firm at or (205) 870-1205.

Post has attachment
Wait while more posts are being loaded