June, 2016: Laurie’s Disability Claim involving Irritable Bowel Syndrome out of the Lawrence, MA ODAR
Laurie’s disability claim is one of many we’ve handled (and continue to handle on a daily basis) involving issues with one’s bowels: this might be Crohn’s disease, Colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and a number of others. Laurie’s case involves that of a hard working woman in her late 50’s that had previously worked such jobs as that of a licensed practice nurse and in light industrial settings. Laurie was experiencing problems with her bowel that was causing cramping and constipation, mostly, and which involved treatment that, once it did work, would cause her to remain in the bathroom for the vast majority of the day. In dealing with cases involving bowel issues, it becomes apparent that just as many times individuals are dealing with an inability to go to the bathroom (constipation issues) which problems are just as debilitating as if someone requires frequent visits to the bathroom for diarrhea type issues.
Laurie’s claim had been initiated without the benefit of a lawyer through the Portsmouth, NH Social Security District Office and a denial was rendered prior to our ability to obtain a helpful opinion from one of her doctors that would address the nature and severity of her bowel problems and how they impact her ability to work. As we would always hope for, Laurie was in treatment with a specialist for her condition (a gastroenterologist) who was undertaking various attempts at medications trials: we always recommend to our clients is that for any condition that is severe and disabling they should be in with medical specialists for that specific condition. What we noted from the very beginning is that Laurie’s problems with her bowels had a direct correlation to the level of stress and anxiety she was experiencing, and that at the time of our initial involvement, the extent of her treatment involved simply her primary care physician: she had not been in any psychiatric care nor had she seen a counselor in over a year. Given this fact, we immediately recommended that Laurie consider getting back into counseling and that she initiate treatment with a psychiatrist that could assist with the medication management necessary for Laurie’s mental health concerns (which were obviously serving to drive her bowel troubles).
The fact that Laurie was very receptive to our concerns made a very big difference in her case. She initiated treatment with both a psychiatrist and a counselor, who, upon getting to know her, were quite supportive of her claim. Upon receiving an initial denial, we filed a request for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on Laurie’s behalf and her case was transferred to the Lawrence, MA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. Prior to the case being scheduled for hearing, we were able to obtain a very telling Physical Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire that addresses the extent to which Laurie was suffering from the condition of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, along with addressing such issues as how often she would have to go to the bathroom, what kind of notice she would have prior to having to leave her work station to go to the bathroom, the length of time she would have to remain in the bathroom, the extent to which she would have to be out of work as a result of this impairment (and her need for treatment) , etc. Likewise, Laurie’s mental health providers provided a very compelling record of treatment that evidenced how her severe mental health problems were impacting her bowel symptomatology. With reference to the treating gastroenterologist’s, the presiding ALJ stated that he afforded great weight to this opinion, as “[t]his source is a specialist opining within her field of expertise. She also based her assessment upon a longstanding relationship with the claimant. Governing regulation generally affords greater weight to opinions of this kind. 20 C.F.R. §404.1527. Furthermore, her conclusions are generally consistent with the medical evidence of record as a whole.” Similarly, the presiding ALJ gave great weight to the treating psychiatrist given they are indeed a specialist in the area in which they were providing an opinion, had established a longstanding relationship with the claimant and the treatment records were corroborative of the findings contained in the report.
For the above reasons, Laurie was provided with a fully favorable on the record decision: this means it was not necessary for Laurie to attend the hearing (for which she was quite grateful). In light of the above, if you or someone you love is suffering from severe bowel-related issues that are making it impossible to continue working, make sure they have the guidance they need from a MA Social Security Lawyer that has been handling such claims for going on 27 years: suggest they contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622.