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April, 2018: Melissa's Fully Favorable Decision out of Lowell, MA and the Lawrence, MA OHO

Melissa is kind, hardworking woman in her 50’s who filed her claim out of the Lowell, MA Social Security Administration (SSA) office who contacted our office looking for a Massachusetts Social Security lawyer after being denied on her initial application for disability benefits. Melissa had a long work history as an executive administrative assistant and became disabled from working following a car accident caused her significant back problems (involving a flare of degenerative disk disease and correspondence sciatica) and an exacerbation of longstanding nerve pain difficulties associated with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in her right leg, which condition had troubled her for the past 20 years. To her credit, Melissa had hoped to return to work and made efforts to do so while collecting unemployment benefits. She did not choose to file a claim with SSA until such time, following her efforts to explore such a return, it became evidence that she simply could not and her condition had kept her out of work for what had been the better part of a year.

One of the complicating factors in Melissa’s claim is the fact that she had undergone implantation of a spinal cord stimulator many years prior which had provided her with the relief she needed to return to work. And yet, the accident had not only impacted her CRPS such that it now flared back up, but also caused a new condition to light up: an underlying degenerative disk disease and corresponding sciatica.

During the course of representation, Melissa made significant efforts with all of her treatment providers, and to her credit, for a period of time she was able to get her SCS adjusted so as to readdress her CRPS. Ultimately, however, the significant pain in her leg returned. And what the consistent treatment records made clear from her physical therapy, her neurologist and her pain management specialist, however, is that despite various efforts at treatment over the course of what was a period of 2 years leading up to her hearing, is that hr condition remained severe and disabling. Treatment efforts included removal and reimplantation of her SCS, multiple efforts at injection therapy (including multiple radiofrequency ablation procedures), neurolytic medications at high dosages, a lidoderm patch and a cane which was prescribed to assist with her gait.

While Melissa was rather expectedly denied at the reconsideration level, our review of her file at the Social Security hearing level (handled out of the Lawrence, MA OHO) made rather clear that the state agency doctors did not have a complete treatment record available for their review. Thus, as Melissa’s attorney, we were able to provide a more complete story to the presiding Administrative Law Judge as to the efforts at treatment Melissa had made: which spoke to the ongoing severity of her condition and how it was impacting her ability to function. That being said, the state agency failed to obtain the records from 7 years prior when Melissa was first diagnosed with CRPS and had undertaken significant treatment at that time (including her initial implantation of the SCS) so as to be able to return to the career she had gone to school for and had thrived in for many years. Indeed, showing her struggle to continue working drives home the point that Melissa would have been working if she could have.

Melissa’s consistent and zealous efforts with her treatment providers were not lost on them, and certainly endeared her. Her treating neurologist, physical therapist and primary care physician were all more than willing to address medical questionnaires on her behalf making clear that her conditions had remained severe and disabling such that she had remained significantly limited in her ability to sit, stand, walk, lift and maintain an 8 hour work schedule (among other activities) such that she could not be expected to undertake any manner of gainful employment on what would be a regular and continuing basis as is required under Social Security’s rules. 

As a result of our pre-hearing brief, Melissa was granted a fully favorable decisions without the need to attend a hearing. If you or someone you care about has been doing everything they can through treatment efforts to keep working, and yet, simply cannot. Have them give a call to the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 so we can explain how the Social Security disability process can provide them with the assistance they need and deserve.