August, 2011: A Strong Work History can Overcome an Otherwise Difficult Case
Mandi's case proved to be a more difficult case given the nature of her condition and ongoing problems. There are certain cases that are just not as clear on its face. However, a strong work history such as Mand's can make all the difference. It is never lost on the Social Security Administration (and their administrative law judges) that someone who has always worked in the past would certainly not be sitting home out of laziness: they are obviously sitting at home because they're suffering significant mental and/or physical symptoms that are making it impossible for them to attend to work regularly. Mandi is a 40 year old woman who initially went out of work in May, 2008 as a result of a myocardial infarction. During the months that followed she had a number of repeat catheterizations, and was ultimately able to return to work in November, 2008 through the end of July, 2009. Given this return to work, she was unable to claim a period of disability for purposes of receiving a Social Security disability income (SSDI) check during this period given what is deemed to be a successful return to work (longer than 6 months). While Mandi returned to work 29 days later, we were able to convince the Administrative Law Judge that she had an unsuccessful return to work given she had to reduce her hours to part-time within weeks of starting, had to miss time from work and ultimately had to leave within just a couple of months of returning to work. Unfortunately, Mandi was having significant chest pain, fatigue and anxiety during this period of time that was not allowing her to function for any extended period of time: it would appear that while her cardiac function was deemed to be good (and had improved during the 6 months following her heart attack), she was continuing to have these symptoms as a result of an anxiety-related disorder that had arisen. We were able to point Mandi towards state assistance in the interim (and the state examining psychologist and the decision from the State of New Hampshire helped provide additional evidence as to Mandi's disability). Likewise, Mandi's psychiatric nurse practitioner, her primary care physician and her cardiologist were all willing to address residual functional capacity questionnaires in support of her claim. Ultimately, the ALJ hearing her case did need to meet with Mandi and myself to hear testimony as to the extent to which (including both frequency and severity) she had been experiencing the symptoms. Because chest pain, fatigue and anxiety-related symptoms are all subjective (and not able to be proven through objective means), the ALJ needed to undertake a credibility determination. Mandi's past work history and her attempts to return to work on two occasions following the initial heart attack (not to mention her exemplary work history leading up to her heart attack) made it abundantly clear that she was being entirely truthful concerning her ongoing symptoms. Following hearing, Mandi has been provided with a fully favorable decision that provides her family with the supplemental income they need (both in terms of retroactive and ongoing disability income checks). I am happy to say that there is one less burden on Mandi's shoulders at this time.