NHBA
Massachussets Bar Association
Maine state Bar
NOSSCR

August, 2018: Jonathan's Fully Favorable Decision out of Lewiston, Maine

Jonathan is a 37 year old gentleman in the Lewiston, Maine area who filed a Social Security disability claim on his own alleging he had become disabled from working 3 months prior from issues involving “extreme undetermined dizziness,” migraines and mental health issues that involved both anxiety and panic attacks. Jonathan had been working for many years consistently as a truck driver when he became disabled. Jonathan was denied at the initial level and contacted our office seeking a Maine Social Security lawyer to assist with his appeal (request for reconsideration).

What was clear upon reviewing Jonathan’s claim is that, for one, he had been disabled from working for only 3 months when he filed his claim for long-term, Social Security disability benefits, and two, was very unclear as to the cause of his difficulties. Social Security’s sequential evaluation process requires, for one, that one prove that they are suffering from a severe medically determinable impairment. That being said, symptoms may not be considered by the Social Security Administration such as “extreme undetermined dizziness” unless there is first determined to be a medically diagnosed severe impairment which would be expected to bring about such symptoms. Given the constellation of symptoms Jonathan was experiencing when he contacted our office, it was less than clear both to our office and to the Social Security Administration (SSA) at the time of his application, what medical condition(s) were causing these symptoms. . Likewise, as part of the sequential evaluation process, Jonathan needed to show that the condition had remained severe and disabling such that he had remained incapable of any manner of gainful employment (and not just from truck driving, which required that he meet the medical qualifications for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) for what had been or would be a year or longer. While Jonathan had experienced difficulties over the years, his condition had never caused him to remain disabled for a lengthy period of time and so SSA had no reason to believe that his condition might not resolve within 12 months.

Following what was an expected rubber stamp denial of his claim on reconsideration and in preparation for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), it became clear that the adjudicator and the doctor reviewing the case on reconsideration had failed to properly review the newly available medical records. While disability claimants are provided a very summary explanation as to the reason they’ve been denied, the actual electronic file contains a detailed, typically 6-10 page decision that goes through the various records reviewed, the doctors’ opinions considered, citation of the regulations that have been considered and a detailed rationale as to the basis for the decision made. In Jonathan’s case, it’s clear that the state agency refused to take into consideration the ongoing dizziness he was continuing to experience notwithstanding the fact that the headaches were no longer severe. Specialist evaluations had been undertaken which opinions, while available for review, were not referenced by the state agency physician finding that there was no medically diagnosed severe impairment to explain the ongoing dizziness. While Meniere’s disease was considered and ruled out, a neurological evaluation at Massachusetts General Hospital and Neurology Services resulted in the conclusion that Jonathan was experiencing vertiginous migraines, which attacks were indeed causing panic attacks. And so while the headache aspect of the condition were not debilitating in and of themselves, the dizziness associated with the migrainous attacks were and should have been considered given they did result from what was a medically diagnosed severe impairment.

Given the nature of the condition, it was not surprising that the presiding ALJ felt the need to hear from Jonathan in person as to severity of his symptoms. Given the multiple residual functional capacity questionnaires we assisted in obtaining from his supportive treatment providers, the arguments provided by way of the pre-hearing brief we provided ahead of hearing and Jonathan’s compelling testimony at hearing (which was only bolstered by his very consistent work history), the presiding ALJ saw fit to provide a fully favorable decision.

Needless to say, having an experienced attorney on your side who understands the rules and regulations can make all of the difference in your case. The Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith has been fighting for the injured and disabled throughout New England for 32 years. Call now at 1-800-773-8622 so we can provide you with an assessment of your case.