November, 2015: Jonathan’s Case: Guidance Through the Massachusetts Social Security Disability Application Process
Jonathan’s case is another example of how an experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help guide you through the process beginning to end and make for a very smooth application (and, ultimately, approval) process. Jonathan is sixty-two (62) year old gentleman who contacted our office having stopped work as a mechanical designer two years prior when his employment came to an end given it was being outsourced overseas. Only upon being pressed to do so did Jonathan describe to us the physical difficulties he was having leading up to his employment being discontinued given problems that included neuropathy of his feet, atrial fibrillation, diabetes and breathing difficulties. He made clear to us the accommodations that were being made for him by his employer. Jonathan in fact had a handicapped placard that allowed for him to park very close to the entrance of his place of employment, so there was very little walking to get to his desk. In fact he was using a cane to get to and from his office, given problems with his breathing. He was experiencing great difficulty making it out to the floor to work on the projects and this, too was being accommodated by his employer
As part of establishing a claim for Social Security disability benefits, it is important to understand the manner in which one’s claim is evaluated through the 5 step sequential evaluation process. First, Social Security looks to see if one is undertaking Substantial Gainful Activity level earnings (that is to say, whether they are working on a regular and continuing basis and earning, in 2016, what would simply be $1130.00 per month). Step 2 is whether they have a severe medical impairment that impacts their ability to function in a work environment in a significant manner. Step 3 is whether the claimant meets or equals in severity a medical listing of impairment (the criteria for these various impairments is set forth in the Social Security regulations). Step 4 is whether the claimant is capable of undertaking any of their past relevant work (which is the work they performed during the 15 years prior to becoming disabled). Step 5 is whether they are capable of performing any other work for which they are reasonably suited by age, education and experience and which jobs exist in significant numbers in either their own region or other regions of the national economy.
In Jonathan’s circumstances, because he is over the age of 50, the Social Security Administration likewise applies a separate set of rules (called the Grid rules) that provides it is more difficult the older one becomes to transfer to other forms of work that might prove less exertional and which would be suitable for his condition (and suitable given his age, education and experience). First and foremost, it was important to show through his treatment history and his doctors’ opinions that he remained incapable of standing for the majority of the day as a result of his conditions. Indeed, his long-term primary care physician for more than 10 years was willing to address the significant nature of his functional limitations that made it quite clear he had remained limited in terms of his ability to stand for lengths of time (not to mention the fact that he would be so limited that he would not be able to work a full 40 hour/week schedule). Likewise, by way of his work history report undertaken as part of the application process (SSA-3369), we were able to show that Jonathan’s past jobs did require him to be on his feet for length of time. Given this fact, we were able to show that Jonathan met step 4 of the sequential evaluation process insofar as his inability to perform any of his past relevant work. Step 5 of the sequential evaluation process, given the fact of Jonathan’s age (which placed him at closely approaching retirement age), his past relevant work which did not involve jobs with semiskilled or skilled skills that would translate to an ability to transfer to jobs which involved sedentary (sit down work) and his past education which involved a high school education with some college (but no degree beyond high school), called for a finding that Jonathan would meet a grid rule: this translates to a fully favorable decision for Jonathan.
Understanding the intricacies of the Social Security regulations, along with the forms that individuals are required to fill out, will avoid any problems or misunderstandings down the road that can lead to a denial. Fortunately for Jonathan, careful attention was paid to the preparation of his claim to avoid such a result.