June, 2017: Norma’s Fully Favorable Social Security decision out of the Boston, MA ODAR
One of the more difficult questions to answer, especially for those who are not a Social Security disability lawyer, is when to file an application for benefits. This is made even more difficult when one is going in and out of work as a result of their disabling condition. Norma’s case is a good example.
Norma contacted our office after she had already initiated an application for Social Security disability benefits and was denied. In the meantime, after having been denied, Norma attempted a return to work at her former job as an administrative assistant. Normal had worked for many years at one of Boston’s top area hospitals until such time as she was diagnosed as suffering from breast cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, Norma had to leave her job while she battled the condition. She underwent a double mastectomy procedure within 2 months of her diagnosis and then had to undergo periods of radiation and chemotherapy treatment following her surgery. While undergoing treatment for her condition, she attempted to file an application on her own and was denied benefits as the Social Security Administration (SSA) contemplated that within a year’s time of going out of work that Norma would be able to return to some manner of gainful employment. In fact, after her initial denial, and 9 months after she went out of work as a result of her condition, Norma was feeling well enough to attempt a return to work.
Unfortunately, Norma’s return to work however was soon hindered by a number of associated complications stemming from her treatment for breast cancer. Medications that were being prescribed for her were soon causing her side effects that were requiring hospitalization and attempts at different medication. The radiation treatment was causing her to experience significant arthralgias that were affecting her shoulders and arms for which she is being prescribed narcotic medication. Both the pain and the fatigue associated with the medication is causing her great difficulty with maintaining a schedule. Despite her best efforts, Norma goes back out of work just 4 months after attempting a return to work. Consequently, unknown to Norma, she has undertaken a return to work that would be deemed an unsuccessful work attempt and not count against the year she needs to show she’s remained disabled (or is likely to remain disabled) in order to meet the duration requirements for Social Security benefits.
The surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and ultimately the need for reconstructive breast surgery ultimately caused Norma to become significantly depressed and anxious, requiring additional treatment in the form of counseling and psychiatric care. It certainly did not help Norma’s mental health that she remains unable to return to the job she’s worked and come to love over so many years.
It is only by allowing time to pass, however, that it became more obvious to the SSA that Norma was continuing to experience over time a progression of physical and emotional after effects from her treatments that were causing her to remain too disabled both physically and mentally to continue working. Norma’s case is a prime example as to how sometimes one needs to give one’s self a chance to recover first, and then attempt a return to work, before one can become clear in one’s own mind that the condition is going to remain totally disabling for what will be a year or longer.
I’m happy to report that upon a new application with our assistance, and with the support of her treating physicians who likewise came to understand the longer term course Norma’s condition was taking, we were able to secure for Norma disability benefits going back to the time she initially went out of work: and this was prior to the need to go to a hearing.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from a severe medical condition that you’re unclear will last a year or longer and you’re wondering what you should do, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 so we can help guide. We’ll help you develop a plan of action: whether it means filing down the road, filing immediately or simply not filing at all.