There is nothing better then walking into a Social Security disability hearing, asking for a judge to approve your disability at a certain onset date, and having him or her completely agree with your statement. When a judge agrees with your alleged onset of disability he may issue a "fully favorable decision." This means that you will be medically entitled to the full disability benefit award.
However, with added financial pressures on the system judges seem to be much more reluctant to grant fully favorable decisions. Fully favorable decisions cost the Social Security Administrations (SSA) tens of thousands of dollars. In other words, in addition to having to pay a claimant disability benefits every month the government will also owe a lump sum back benefit award. This is not something that SSA likes to do. Instead, approval rates are down significantly this year. The few cases that are approved are typically not fully favorable. The judge could very well disagree with when you think that you became disabled and rule in favor of a very different and more recent onset of disability, which is the case more often than not.
One of my clients last week had a hearing in front of an administrative law judge and we contended that his disability began in early 2010. The judge issued a favorable decision at the hearing, but with an amended onset of March 2011. Although the judge did approve the case, he did so trying to save the government a full year of back benefits owed to my client.
There are always two major goals when walking into a disability hearing: get the case approved and maximize the back benefit award. The second goal often gets overlooked when judges issue favorable decisions. But, back benefit awards can be instrumental in changing the lives of those suffering from various debilitating medical conditions. The back benefit award is often used to help pay for medical expenses, housing, food, and various debts accrued as a result of the claimant being incapable of working.