August, 2016: Ron’s Social Security Disability Claim out of Portsmouth, NH
Ron is a young gentleman, in his early 40’s with a past relevant work history as a boiler maker and pipe fitter who came to our office suffering from the severe effects of diabetes (along with diabetic neuropathy) and polyarthritis. Unfortunately, Ron became long term disabled from these medical conditions and, consequently, he did file an initial application on his own with the Portsmouth, NH Social Security District Office. After his claim had been reviewed by the state agency in New Hampshire responsible for reviewing whether he remained disabled under Social Security rules (Disability Determination Services (DDS) out of Concord, NH), his claim was denied. It thus became necessary for Ron to undertake a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): the state of New Hampshire remains one of the states where a pilot project has dispensed with the intermediate request for reconsideration process. Ron consequently contacted our office to assist with his hearing process.
Upon filing Ron’s Request for Hearing, his claim was referred to the Lawrence, MA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review for the hearing to be scheduled before the ALJ. Ron had been in aggressive treatment prior to our involvement and a review of his claim as we were preparing for hearing revealed a number of concerning issues. For one, Ron’s treating neurologist had taken it upon himself to write a narrative in support of Ron’s claim at a very early point in the treatment process. Thus, it could not be clear at that point in time that Ron’s condition would remain severe and disabling for what would be a year or longer (which is what is required under Social Security’s rules). Likewise, Ron’s treating neurologist was not aware of the types of issues that should be addressed in a medical report. In choosing to make statements that reflected his opinion that Ron remained disabled from working (rather than addressing in what way Ron was incapable of undertaking functional activities that remain necessary for an individual to undertake certain types of jobs), he had provided opinions which the Social Security rules state must be ignored: the rules provide that the ultimate determination as to whether an individual is “disabled” under their rules is left for the Social Security Administration. Instead, doctors should be addressing the nature and severity of the condition(s) being treated, including diagnoses, prognoses, symptoms, objective/clinical findings and the functional limitations that result from the diagnosed conditions.
Upon getting involved, we sought a more appropriate assessment from the treating neurologist (at a point in time when he had been treating Ron for a lengthier period of time, having undertaken additional testing and treatment for his condition). Likewise, we were able to determine from a review of the prior DDS determination that they had inappropriately ignored the opinion of their own doctor that had been asked to examine Ron as part of his initial determination. We were able to argue to the presiding ALJ that the new evidence obtained from both the treating neurologist, along with the prior evidence available from the consultative examiner, were compelling. Likewise, we obtained helpful documentation that had previously been unavailable for review from the claimant’s treating rheumatologist.
As a result the additional evidence provided and arguments made on Ron’s behalf at hearing (not to mention Ron’s testimony), we were able to convince the presiding ALJ that Ron had been improperly denied his Social Security disability benefits. I am happy to be able to say that we were able to get benefits in order prior to Ron having to worry about a mortgage foreclosure on his house. Even though we’ve not been able to assist Ron with the significant pain and dysfunction associated with his condition, Ron is breathing a lot easier knowing that he has the financial assistance he needs to support his family.
If you, or someone you know has been struggling to get by as a result of a long term disability, feel free to contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at 1-800-773-8622 to see how we might be able to assist them with a Social Security disability claim. Having a NH Social Security Lawyer right up front to assist with their claim can, in many circumstances, allow for the claims process to go much more smoothly.