December, 2017 Jason’s Maine Social Security Disability claim out of Westbrook, Maine
Jason is a gentleman in his 40’s who resides in Westbrook, Maine, and who contacted our office seeking a Maine Social Security lawyer upon filing his claim out of the Portland, Maine Social Security Administration (SSA) office on his own. Jason had been struggling for a number of years with a painful nerve disorder involving his feet, and had over time struggled with issues involving depression, anxiety and migraines. Jason had worked a number of years as a nurse and, upon moving to Maine, had hoped to continue both his education and work until such time as his conditions made it impossible.
Jason’s history of problems go back a number of years, to the point in time when he was living in the Midwest and was struggling to maintain his employment as a result of problems that included bilateral tarsal tunnel syndrome and a peripheral neuropathy. Unfortunately, even with longstanding medical conditions, SSA is not likely to seek and obtain medical records that go back more than 1 year prior to when one became disabled from working. That being said, Jason had struggled for a great many years with his condition before having to undergo bilateral foot surgery for his tarsal tunnel syndrome. Prior to this, he had undergone years of repeat injections to his feet, evaluations with his foot doctor along with medication management just to maintain his job. None of these records were obtained and reviewed as SSA did not seek them: not even the foot surgery records.
At the time of hearing, in accordance with Social Security regulation 20 C.F.C. Section 404.936, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned to hear requested a medical expert come and testify. As part of the SSA’s sequential evaluation process, the ALJ must determine not only whether a medically determinable severe impairment exists, but whether under step 3 of the sequential evaluation process the individual meets the criteria for a particular listed impairment. Should one be found to meet or equal in severity of a medical impairment listed under SSA’s Listings of Impairments, then a finding of “disabled” under Social Security’s rules would automatically follow.
The presiding ALJ provided counsel with notice that the presiding ALJ had chosen to call to testify a general internal medicine doctor to testify. Having a lawyer who is knowledgeable as to the Social Security Listings of Impairments is quite important as there are indeed circumstances where the doctors are not sufficiently familiar with the medical record as a whole. This can be for a number of reasons: perhaps if they have not been provided with the complete file material to review ahead of time (which one’s counsel can ensure does take place) or two, it may simply be the case that a doctor missed seeing a particular test result or narrative that counsel might be able to point out to them. The testifying physicians are provided with very little in the way of fees to cover the time of reviewing a thick file, and so many times they take a very cursory look at the file. One’s Social Security lawyer can help to ensure that they don’t miss any of the important records that have been submitted.
In Jason’s case, the medical expert determined that Jason had been diagnosed with an ongoing small fiber neuropathy that could be objectively shown following a skin biopsy. The medical expert also testified that Jason met requirements of Social Security Listing 11.14A which requires that the individual have disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in an extreme limitation in their ability to stand up from a seated position, in their balance while standing or walking or in their inability to use their upper extremities. These findings were buttressed further by reports we were able to obtain from both Jason’s physiatrist and primary care physician.
In the end, Jason’s strong work ethic also proved to make a huge difference. Jason’s earnings record showed consistent, long-term employment, and, when seen in conjunction with the additional years of treatment records, provided a picture of someone who had always struggled to work. This in turn convinced the ALJ that Jason would be working if he could.
The moral of the story is that one cannot rely on SSA to fully develop the evidence that will be necessary to prove your case. It is up to you, or you legal representative, to ensure that your record fully tells your story. Thus, if you find yourself unable to work and in need of applying for Social Security disability benefits, it is not advisable to chance it going alone. Call the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 to ensure that all of the necessary steps are undertaken to ensure your best foot is put forward.