April, 2010: What Happens when Your Lawyer Does their Homework
One of my rewarding favorable decisions this month includes that of "Stephanie," who filed for Social Security disability based on her difficulties with oral cancer, psoriatic arthritis and hypertension. Stephanie had been working previously in various physically demanding jobs and initially became disabled as a result of issues involving oral cancer. Stephanie's psoriatic arthritis took a turn for the worse and these two issues, in combination, made it impossible for Stephanie to consider returning to work.
Prior to our involvement, Stephanie did not have the benefit of a Social Security disability lawyer and was attempting to handle the claim herself. After filing her claim in her local Massachusetts Social Security field office, she was denied. Once again, she chose to file, this time her request for reconsideration, on her own and was shortly thereafter denied. She was not aware of the need to ensure that her medical record was complete, nor how she could review her file to ensure this had taken place This is not to mention the fact that Stephanie did not have a sense of how a Social Security disability claim needs to be proven. What she really needed was a knowledgeable and zealous Massachusetts Social Security lawyer to assist her. While she could understand, in visceral terms, how her medical condition was keeping her from working steadily, given her good days and bad days, she was not aware of the types of additional evidence should be obtained from her treatment providers that could make the difference for her particular claim.
The Social Security disability regulations require that one prove that their medical condition not only keeps them from working any of the jobs they have performed in the 15 year period prior to becoming disabled (otherwise referred to in the regulations as their past relevant work) but that they remain totally disabled from performing any job for which they are reasonably suited by age, education and experience. With this in mind, providing evidence as to the extent to which Stephanie remained limited in terms of her ability to undertake such activities as sitting, standing, walking for a length of time, and out of an 8 hour workday, lifting and carrying throughout the day, bend and twist at the waist (that is to say, stoop), maintaining her attention and concentration would be very relevant in terms of her ability to return to any manner of employment and not just her previous employment. The extent to which Stephanie would have to miss time from work as a result of her condition, given her bad days, or would have to come in late or leave early, likewise would prove critical to finding that Stephanie simply could not maintain any manner of employment since her conditions had turned severe.
Upon our involvement, we assisted in obtaining more than 1500 pages of additional treatment records that the Social Security Administration did not have available at the time of the prior agency determinations. We were able to obtain numerous residual functional capacity assessments from her physicians addressing the fact that she remained incapable of any form of gainful employment as a result of her various conditions. The argument brief filed on Stephanie's behalf resulted in Stephanie obtaining a fully favorable on the record decision (making it unnecessary to go to hearing at the MA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review).
Needless to say, both Stephanie and I are happy to say that life has been made a lot more bearable for Stephanie from a financial standpoint following this decision, and I feel fortunate I was able to assist her with her appeal.
If you're suffering from long-term disabling medical conditions that are hindering your ability to work and you don't know where to turn, you should contact us now at 1-800-773-8622 to discuss your concerns