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April, 2015: New Hampshire success: Richard’s Case, Long-term Consequences of Cancer

Richard came to us as a forty-five (45) year old gentleman with a long work history in the manufacturing world. He worked consistently up until a few years ago when he had to discontinue working as a result of severe back pain and difficulty breathing that caused him to end up in the emergency room. Testing revealed that Richard was suffering from lung cancer which was confirmed to one of his lungs. He underwent chemoradiation therapy initially so as to shrink the mass and shortly thereafter a full pneumonectomy (lung removal) was undertaken. Mr. Read was left with one (1) remaining lung that was functioning at less than maximum capacity.

Unfortunately, Richard was denied on his initial application as it was not clear from the the pulmonary function testing that he met the requirements of a Social Security listing of impairment (although, certainly, his pulmonary functioning in the remaining lung was noted to be abnormally low). However, the level of pulmonary function was not at such a low level that it would be evident on the face of the test that Richard would remain totally incapable of all forms of gainful employment (and, more specifically, form an easier level of work, such as a sit down/sedentary type of position).

Complicating matters for Richard was the fact that he was becoming more depressed and anxious over his life circumstances. What became clear over time is that these mental health components were further impacting his ability to function (and to feel well enough to function).

As is many times the case, a disabled individual will choose to file for Social Security disability earlier than would be advisable. Given one needs to show they will remain disabled from all forms of gainful employment for longer than a year as a result of a severe disabling medical impairment, despite prescribed treatment, many times individuals are denied initially when they might otherwise face a favorable decision if they only had waited to apply for benefits closer to the year period of time. In Richard’s case, he had applied only 2 months out of going out of work (prior to the end of his chemoradiation and before the pneumonectomy). Thus, it was entirely unclear at that time that Richard would remain disabled from working for a year or longer.

Prior to the need to go to hearing, we were able to provide the presiding Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) with additional treatment records that evidenced the ongoing treatment that had taken place since the time of the denial, along with medical questionnaires from both the primary care physician and the pulmonologist that showed their opinions that Richard remained quite debilitated from both a physiological standpoint (with reference to his remaining lung function) and a mental health standpoint (in terms of how his mental health issues with depression and anxiety where further impacting his ability to feel comfortable undertaking simply daily activities). Given the new and material evidence we were able to provide at the hearing level, the presiding ALJ provided a fully favorable decision without the need to proceed to hearing.

If you are facing potentially long term disabling circumstances from either a physical or mental health condition, it is wise to obtain legal counsel up front prior to proceeding with a claim on your own. Here at the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith, we have been providing residents of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire with the legal advice and assistance they need regarding their disability circumstances.