NHBA
Massachussets Bar Association
Maine state Bar
NOSSCR

February, 2018: Jerry's Portland, Maine OHO Fully Favorable On the Record Decision

Jerry is a prime example of what I’ve referred to as a “star.” In order to be considered a “star” in my book and with the Social Security Administration, one needs to show 1) a stellar work history and 2) that they came to apply for Social Security disability benefits kicking and screaming: that is, doing everything they could to keep working.

Jerry is a client out of York County, Maine who came to our office with an extensive work history that included delivering newspapers, maintenance work, as a laborer at a steel manufacturing site, as a machine operator, as a deli prep worker, fry cook and in various positions as a cashier. And during this time, he managed to raise 5 children. Towards the end of his career, his medical difficulties took more and more of a toll on him and he had to take a job on a part-time basis simply to try and make ends meet while hoping to be approved for Social Security disability benefits. He continued to try and maintain his shifts while applying for disability, and yet was continuing to earn significantly below gainful wages during that period of time. Ultimately, given his conditions were requiring that he call out more and more, the owner of the restaurant where he was attempting to work had no choice but to begin cutting him from the schedule as he could no longer be reliable.

Jerry filed his application for Social Security disability out of the Saco, Maine Social Security District Office alleging disability based on a combination of severe impairments that included mental health difficulties, chronic kidney disease and gastrointestinal dysfunction. He did not realize that for many months he was not earning gainful employment and thus did not use a proper alleged onset date of disability when applying. Upon being denied at the initial level, he hired our office to assist with the reconsideration process at which time we amended his onset date to 5 months earlier. We assisted him with addressing a Work Activity Report (SSA-821) to help make clear that the work being performed for some time did not constitute gainful wages. As was to be expected, he was promptly denied on reconsideration (given the very high denial rate on reconsideration) and we assisted Jerry with his Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which ultimately was assigned to the Portland, Maine Office of Hearing Operations (OHO).

What became clear at the initial and reconsideration stages is that the state agency had failed to recognize that, while Jerry was continuing to work while applying for Social Security, he had been disabled from maintaining gainful employment for quite some time. These are not issues that will be readily clear necessarily to someone applying for benefits, nor for that matter to SSA. And thus, at the hearing level, we undertook an extensive 10 page brief outlining Jerry’s work history and his attempts at maintaining employment through his medical difficulties. We were able to make clear to the presiding ALJ how the additional treatment records we were able to obtain from his treating psychiatrist, along with the supportive Mental Impairment Questionnaire, specifically addressed the various criteria of the Social Security listings of impairments and made evident that Jerry met the criteria for a number of Listings of Impairment that would therefore call for a fully favorable decision to issue.

And, thus, we were able to convince the presiding ALJ to provide a fully favorable decision to Jerry from the date we had amended his alleged onset to, thus meaning for him that he would not need to go to a hearing. As part of his findings, the ALJ determined the additional treatment records (before now missing from the medical record) served to assist him in finding that the “chronicity of physical problems as contributory to an exacerbation of mental health issues.”

Needless to say, Jerry was ecstatic to hear that help would finally be on the way and that he would no longer need to stress over a hearing process that he was dreading. And Jerry will always be a “star” in my book for what he did to try and continue working: he came kicking and screaming for disability benefits, and certainly not running. And this is why our office continues to represent those disabled and in need of legal advice and assistance. If you have you struggled your entire life to work and find that your medical conditions have simply made effects at working impossible, we want you to call the office that knows the rules inside and out and can guide you through the maze of regulations: the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 for the advice they need.