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May, 2015: Showing the Struggle to Maintain Treatment and Work

Jennifer’s story is an example of how important it is that one come kicking and screaming to the Social Security Administration for disability benefits rather than running. Jennifer is an example of a strong young woman, thirty-five (35) years old, who is a single mother who has persevered through a great deal of adversity. Obtaining benefits for anyone as young as Jennifer is never easy, but it is made much easier when one is showing the struggle to continue working and, likewise, that they are always willing to seek out the additional treatment they need (and, thus, that they are struggling to get better). The Social Security rules and regulations require that one show they are disabled “despite prescribed treatment.” This means that one should be seeking treatment with specialists for any condition that they believe remains severe and disabling.

Jennifer’s medical history goes back a number of years, during which time she remained in treatment with the same rheumatologist for issues with Fibromyalgia, neuropathy and Scleroderma. Notwithstanding these medical concerns, Jennifer had managed to work her way through nursing school as a single mother. Unfortunately, shortly after beginning her career, her numerous ailments (including diagnosed issues with severe mental health difficulties) took their toll on Jennifer such that she became more and more unable to function (and more and more unable to work). Among the conditions that were most severely impacting her was the diagnosed condition of Fibromyalgia, for which she had been seeing a specialist (a rheumatologist) for 3 years leading up to going out of work.

Fortunately, Jennifer was quite committed to treatment and to attempting to get better. She was maintaining treatment with a pulmonologist, a rheumatologist, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a counselor, and these treatment providers were assisting her during the time she was continuing to struggle with maintaining work. When one medication did not prove useful, she returned to the prescribing doctor and informed them of this fact and sought out other treatment options. Notwithstanding the frustration she experienced as a result of her failure to improve, Jennifer did not give up hope of getting better. Unfortunately, her conditions only continued to spiral downwards for her despite the various treatment modalities she was attempting.

What Jennifer did not realize was happening as a result of her persisting diligence with treatment providers is that she was creating an objective record of her problems and of her treatment efforts: her problems were being objectively documented on repeated examination. As the Social Security regulations require one to prove that they remain totally disabled “despite prescribed treatment,” we were able to show through her continuous treatment, and through multiple provider records, that she was 1) doing everything she can to get better and 2) despite that, her conditions remained severe and disabling. Likewise, her various treatment providers became heavily invested in both Jennifer’s treatment and her life circumstances. When presented with requests to address the nature and severity of Jennifer’s medical conditions, each one was more than happy to assist. These reports made a huge difference in Jennifer’s case. Simply the fact that her long-term treating rheumatologist was willing to provide such a telling and detailed assessment of the objective signs, symptoms and limitations Jennifer had been continuing to experience had a huge impact on the presiding Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who relied heavily on her opinion in finding that Jennifer had remained totally disabled from all forms of gainful employment since her alleged onset date. I am happy to report that Jennifer has been provided with some very welcome financial relief that is allowing her to return to some semblance of independence.