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September, 2017: Roland's Fully Favorable Social Security Decision out of Keene, NH and Manchester, NH ODAR

Roland’s story provides good insight as to how a knowledgeable Social Security lawyer can utilize the Medical Vocational Guideline (Grid) https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0425025001 rules so as to obtain for you a favorable decision even prior to the need to go to hearing. Roland had decided to contact our office after he had filed his own application with the Keene, NH Social Security Administration (SSA) office and had been denied on his initial application. Thus, we were involved with assisting Roland with the filing of his Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which hearing ultimately was to be scheduled in Brattleboro, VT given this is where many of the western New Hampshire claimants are scheduled for hearing.

Roland was a hardworking individual who had reached the age of sixty (60) with a more than forty (40) year history of consistent employment in the manufacturing industry, and who had served as a manufacturing manager. Roland had been suffering from issues involving heard disease for a number of years which was impacting his ability to work his job (which required quite a bit of walking throughout the plant). Unfortunately, Roland lost his job through a layoff while he was experiencing difficulties with his heart condition and was off from work. Because he was laid off at the time and was not familiar with the Grid rules, Roland did not apply for Social Security disability benefits upon getting laid off as it simply did not occur to him that he would be entitled.

Ultimately, by the time Roland did apply, his treating cardiologist who had been seeing him at the time he was still employed (and was having difficulties) had moved on from his place of employment and had not seen Roland in a number of years. Moreover, the state agency responsible for obtaining his treatment records and for deciding whether he qualified as “disabled” under Social Security’s rules (Disability Determination Services (DDS)), did not obtain the earlier records from his treating cardiologist. Obviously, as well, there was no opinion evidence from the former treating cardiologist (nor, for that matter, from any other treatment provider) that had been treating him back at the time he was laid off that could assist the state agency in a potential finding that Roland had remained disabled.

Fortunately, upon our involvement, the circumstances of Roland’s case began to change rather quickly. We recognized that a potential grid rule would apply to Roland’s case. Because he had reached the age of 55 at the time he became disabled, he was considered under Social Security’s regulations to be of “advanced age,” and had a vocational profile that included a high school education and past relevant work (that, work he had performed during the 15 year prior to becoming disabled) that would be considered to be in the medium exertional level as that is defined under the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT): that is, he was required to lift 50 lbs or more on a frequent basis and up to 25 lbs. on an occasional basis and would, among other requirements, have to stand/walk for up to 6 hours out of an 8 hour workday. Thus, it was evident to his counsel that if his doctors were limiting him to either light work (which in essence is no lifting greater than 20 lbs occasionally and 10 lbs frequently, with standing all day long, or sedentary work, which is defined as the ability to lift up to 10 lbs. frequently and less than 10 lbs. occasionally), he would meet either Grid Rule 201.06 or 202.06. With this in mind, we went about searching for Roland’s old cardiologist to see if he remembered Roland and would be willing to assist. Fortunately, Roland’s cardiologist had not traveled far, and was now working in the area hospital versus in a cardiology practice, and remembered Roland quite well. He was more than willing to provide a residual functional assessment that spelled out the extent of his limitations if placed in a work setting (as was his long-term treating physician). The cardiologist did not believe that Roland was capable of standing for what would be 6 out of 8 hours of a day, and thus his report served to rule out not only a return to Roland’s old position, but even a light position (with additional limitations that ruled out even sedentary exertional employment).

Moreover, a review of the detailed decision from the state agency revealed that they had mischaracterized Roland’s past work as light work when in fact it was performed at the medium level (and was defined by the DOT as a medium level position). Thus, DDS had inappropriately determined with a light exertional capacity he would be capable of performing his own position. Thus, even by the state agency doctor’s findings, Roland should have been provided a favorable decision.

With all of these factors working in Roland’s favor, the presiding ALJ determined that Roland did not need to come to a hearing and granted our request that Roland be provided with a fully favorable on the record decision.

If you have struggled all of your life to work as Roland did, and now find yourself in an uphill battle with SSA, contact the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith at (800) 773-8622 to see how we might be able to assist.