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August, 2015: Vanessa’s Case and how an Experienced MA Social Security Lawyer can make all the Difference at the Boston, MA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review

Vanessa’s case proves the point that having a knowledgeable Massachusetts Social Security Lawyer that will work hard to obtain the evidence needed to prove your case and will guide you through the process is critical to ensuring that you will ultimately obtain the favorable decision you need to survive.

Vanessa’s case involved that of a fifty-eight (58) year woman suffering from a great many rheumatological conditions that were impacting her various joints, and most significantly hand joints, who had worked for many years in the human resources field. Towards the end of her employment, Vanessa, while continuing to work full time and at a gainful level, was being provided with significant accommodations from her employer so that she could continue to work for them. Ultimately, the office where Vanessa was working was closing and she was no longer going to be able to work for the firm that had provided her with so many opportunities and, ultimately, accommodations. Vanessa, while continuing to collect unemployment benefits, did seek to find other work that might suit her condition. Unfortunately, she was not successful in finding an office that might allow her the accommodations she needed so as to continue working. Vanessa thus needed to apply for Social Security disability benefits.

As I’ve mentioned in the website (see our website page entitled SSDI and Unemployment benefits ), applying for unemployment benefits can be construed as a statement to the Department of Labor that one continues to remain available for gainful employment and thus can serve as a contradictory statement to that which one provides to the Social Security Administration when applying for disability benefits: that is, that they remain totally disabled from all forms of gainful employment. In Vanessa’s circumstance, it was not obvious to her at the time she was applying for unemployment benefits that she would ultimately be successful in finding a job that would be able to accommodate her condition (and ultimately this proved to be the case).

Unfortunately, without the benefit of a lawyer at the time of her initial application, both to assist her with the application forms (so as to spell out how her condition prevented her from undertaking activities on a consistent and sustained basis that would prevent her from going back to the judge she last performed, or for that matter other jobs for which she’d be reasonably suited) and to assist her with getting helpful documentation from her doctors that spelled out her functional limitations, Denise was denied. Part of the reason seemed to focus on the fact that she was taking care of other family members in the household, which made it seem as though her functional limitations might not be as bad as she was suggesting. Again, having a lawyer to assist with the application paperwork can help make clear just how dysfunctional one remains despite their ability to care for others.

Once we got involved in Vanessa’s claim, we worked with her to see about obtaining helpful disability questionnaires from both her primary care physician and her rheumatologist, both of whom had been treating her for years. Unfortunately, we did have to proceed to hearing, and in front of one of the administrative law judges that has a very low rate of issuing favorable decisions. Notwithstanding this fact, Vanessa was very well prepared by our office for the hearing generally, and to be able to tell her story to the presiding ALJ. She testified at hearing in a manner that made clear just how disabled she had remained. She was able to make clear through her testimony the significant accommodations provided to her by her prior employer, her wish to return to work (and efforts to do so) but inability to do so given the significant limitations she now had a result of her conditions, and the fact that her efforts to care for household members was not undertaken by her alone (but with the assistance of others). Likewise, her medical providers provided substantial additional documentation that included objective evidence of just how disabling Vanessa’s medical conditions had become. The doctors made it clear that even if she was going to be able to do a job that was primarily a seated position (which they made clear they did not feel was possible given her problems), she would still be be severely limited in her ability to undertake work with her hands. With the findings they provided, we did convince the judge that Social Security Ruling 96-9P would apply in her case, which provides in pertinent part that “any significant manipulative limitation of an individual’s ability to handle and work with small objects with both hands will result in a significant erosion of the unskilled sedentary occupational base.”

I am happy to report that Vanessa did receive a fully favorable decision from the ALJ that has provided her with some much needed financial relief. Vanessa’s story is remindful of the fact that obtaining an aggressive and experienced Massachusetts Social Security Lawyer from the outset is always helpful. Contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 so you can learn how we can make a difference in your disability claim or appeal.