May, 2017: Katherine’s Fully Favorable Decision out of East Falmouth, MA and the Boston, Massachusetts ODAR
Katherine’s disability claim involvement with our office began after she decided to hire a Massachusetts Social Security disability lawyer following her denial on reconsideration. Given where Katherine resides on Cape Cod, her claim was initiated out of the East Falmouth, MA District Office. Katherine had filed her claim less than a month after the date she claimed she had become disabled from working. It was not surprising that she was subsequently denied on her initial claim given it was not apparent from the nature of her treatment and recovery that she was likely to remain out of work for what would be a year or longer. Katherine opted to file her appeal (a request for reconsideration at that point, as would be the case in Maine or Massachusetts, however in New Hampshire one would proceed directly to the hearing process) on her own. This resulted in yet another denial of Katherine’s claim (and at a point in time when Katherine had only remained disabled from working for a period of six (6) months).
Two of the major misconceptions that Katherine had about the process when she initially applied on her own was 1) what would be the appropriate onset date to allege with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and 2) when would be best to file the claim. Katherine had been experiencing difficulties with her back long before ultimately going out of work in the summer of 2015 (the date she alleged she became disabled from working). In fact, Katherine was referred to a neurosurgeon for severe low back pain and radiculopathy back in January, 2015, and following that was scheduled for fusion surgery of her back that took place the following month. In fact, Katherine had remained out of work for a period of 3 months prior to an attempt to return to work in April, 2015. As Katherine had attempted to increase her hours at work, the pain continued to increase with her back (and problems with her mental health began to occur).
Unfortunately, because Katherine was not represented by an attorney, she was not aware of the fact that she was entitled to request an onset date going back to when she initially went out of work based on the unsuccessful work attempt rules. Likewise, if she was represented by a skilled Social Security practitioner, she would have been advised that there was no reason to apply as early as she did. As she still needed to show that she would remain out of work for what would be a year or longer, and benefits were not payable for the first five (5) full months she remained out of work, Katherine was not aware that filing as early as she did was unnecessary and simply served to promote a denial of her claim (and a lengthy appeals process).
Upon our involvement, we were able to amend Katherine’s alleged onset date backwards in time four (4) months and advise her of the fact that if she was able to return to work inside of a year, then she would not qualify for benefits. We were able to ensure that Katherine remained in the appropriate, aggressive care for both her back and her mental health (that is to say, with her orthopedic surgeon, her pain management specialist, a counselor and a psychiatrist). Likewise, upon determining that her conditions did continue to remain severe and disabling for what was longer than a year, we were able to prevail upon her doctors to provide supportive reports that explained the both the severity of her physical and mental health impairments and the extent to which it impacted her ability to function (that is to say, impacted her residual functional capacity (RFC)).
At the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) which was held at the remote hearing site on the Cape, the additional treatment records and RFC Questionnaires (along with Katherine’s testimony), served to convince the presiding ALJ that Katherine’s conditions had remained severe and disabling such that she would not have been able to maintain any manner of gainful employment since the amended alleged onset date we had chosen.
Needless to say, in order to save yourself unnecessary grief, consider hiring an experience lawyer. Before you decide to file a Social Security disability claim or appeal on your own, consider contacting a law firm specializing in Social Security disability work and has handled thousands of such claims over the course of the last 34 years. Contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622.