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December, 2016: Daniel’s Social Security Claim out of Portland, ME: the Importance of a Lawyer from the Beginning

Daniel’s claim filed out of the Saco, ME Social Security field office shows just how much of a difference having a Maine Social Security disability lawyer from the very beginning can end up allowing one to avoid quite a long and arduous claims and appeals process. Daniel, who resides in the Sanford, Maine, Springvale area did initially file his claim on his own, filling out the various forms himself as he did not think he would require the assistance of an attorney. He had already applied on one prior occasion and had been denied: he then attempted yet another return to work (which did ultimately fail). Thus, Daniel did attempt to refile a claim on his own and, soon thereafter, did receive a denial following review of his claim by Disability Determination Services out of Augusta, Maine.

Daniel had been asked as part of the initial application process to address a Work History Report form. The importance of this form was not apparent to Daniel, and, unfortunately, he did not complete the form in its entirety. The form is designed to provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) with an idea of what work has been performed during the 15 years prior to becoming disabled (which is referred to under the regulations as their past relevant work history). The agency designated to determine whether one remains disabled is tasked with deciding whether one remains capable of performing their past relevant work as part of Social Security’s sequential evaluation process. For those that are over the age of 50 (as is the case with Daniel, who had reached the age of 60 by the point in time of his application, there are a set of rules called the Medical Vocational Guideline (or Grid Rules) that apply to those who primarily have worked very labor intensive positions in the past and do not have skills or schooling that would allow them to easily transfer to less exertional types of positions. Because Daniel did not fill in the detailed information as to what the physical requirements were of his past jobs, there was no way for SSA to make a determination whether he could perform any of his vocationally relevant past work or might meet one of the Grid rules.

Upon getting involved at the hearing level and filing his Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), we discovered that there were 2 very big issues that had not been addressed: one was a properly completed work history report and two was a report from one of his providers that addressed the extent of his functional limitations (which would then speak to whether he could perform the physical requirements of the jobs now properly addressed in a work history report). We assisted Daniel with providing a detailed indication of his past work history with respect to the physical demands of the job, and we were able to obtain not only a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire from his primary care physician as to the extent to which he remained limited by his various medical conditions, but also a past work restrictions report the doctor had addressed for him when he had initially gone out of work.

We were able to address these issues and make evident to the ALJ by way of our argument letter that Daniel had clearly remained disabled from performing any of his past relevant work and did clearly fall under the Social Security grid rules. The presiding ALJ took it upon himself to have a pre-hearing conference to discuss what was contained in my brief, and, following what was a very short hearing designed to address what issues remained important to get on the record, he did issue a bench decision for Daniel. A bench decision is where the presiding ALJ recites the parameters of the favorable decision without having to assign the case to a decision writer for the writing of an extensive decision that can run at times 10 pages or longer. This allows a decision to be rendered much more quickly to a claimant.

Needless to say, Daniel’s holidays are going much better this year than they were last year. We were happy to be able to assist Daniel given his many years of hard work. His circumstances do show, however, that the assistance of a competent and diligent Social Security attorney in your case can help avoid a denial in the first place.

If you or somebody you know is finding that they need to undertake an application for Social Security disability benefits, they are encouraged to contact our office to see how much easier we can make this process. We do not get paid a fee unless and until we win the case, and is limited to 25% of the past due benefits obtained (and which amount is presently capped by Federal law at $7,200.00). Call the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 to see how we can make that difference for you