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Massachussets Bar Association
Maine state Bar

August, 2010: Aggressive Treatment Creates a Win Win Situation

Brent's case is a wonderful example of how continued aggressive treatment creates a win-win situation, both in terms of one's Social Security disability claim as well as in life. Brent is a 47 year old gentleman with a strong work history as a machinist who came down with a balance disorder that caused him to go out of work. Diagnosing this condition did not prove an easy task for the doctors. Brent went from one specialist to another trying to find answers as to why he was having bouts of disabling vertigo-type symptoms. During the course of our representation, Brent continued to maintain a positive attitude and continued to do what he could to follow-up on recommended treatment options. Ultimately, Brent was able to find a neurologist who recommended a course of vestibular therapy: given prior neurologists remained unclear as to whether this was the culprit (that is to say, a vestibular dysfunction), none had recommended vestibular therapy for Brent. Following two (2) months of therapy, Brian was feeling significantly better and was ready to attempt a return to work at his old job. His employer was happy to see him back. Six months later, Brent came up for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge who likewise appeared happy to hear of Brent's efforts and of his successful return to work. The judge ordered a closed period of disability compensation for Brent for the two years he was out of work (which means that Brent actually received benefits for the first two months after his disability had ceased: one is entitled to two additional months of disability following the month in which the disability ceases when granted a closed period of disability). The fact that Brent had shown such a zealousness to seek out treatment for his condition provided the judge with an insight into the extent to Brent was truly suffering. Likewise, the fact that Brent returned to work just as soon as he physically was able to served to prove to the judge that Brent had a very strong work ethic: that is to say, that he would have been working previously if it were not for his disability. Another factor in all of this that is not lost on the judges is the fact that there are very few individuals ultimately returning to work once placed on Social Security disability benefits. Judges, in my opinion, appear much more at ease providing disability benefits to those who have returned to work as there isn't the concern that the disabled claimant will remain on disability benefits for years beyond the judge decision (and potentially the remainder of their life). The moral of Brent's story is that doing everything one can to get better and return to work is always in one's best interest (and in the best interest of one's Social Security disability claim).