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September, 2012: Stories of 2 Very Deserving Claimants

September has proven to be a great start to the fall season for many of my disability clients. I am happy to provide here the stories of two very deserving individuals, Denise and Patty.

Patty is a forty-four (44) year old woman who lives in Maine who had contacted our office after being denied on her initial claim and again on reconsideration. She had been working for many years as a med tech and injured her back at home while moving boxes. Unfortunately, her condition only worsened when she returned to work and during the months that followed. Likewise, in the year prior to her injuries, it was obvious that Patty had suffered a number of losses in her life which were beginning to cause her mental health concerns (and for which she was in treatment). Patty's case is another example of how diligent follow through with treatment can make all of the difference with a case. Early on, MRI studies of her back were less than clear as to whether the back problems were disk related or not. She sought out different opinions for her condition that were less than clear, but treatment providers did note that her complaints remained consistent (and noted her condition remained severe). Various treatment modalities were attempted: oral steroids, steroid injections and various medications over a period of months, but her condition did not improve. She was subsequently referred for counseling and psychiatric care, which she undertook consistently (following through on their recommendations). Likewise, a few months into her disability, she began to experience severe neck problems for which MRI evidenced some disk involvement as well. However, one of Patty's doctors was likewise suggesting that she was suffering from Fibromyalgia given the extent of the physical complaints she was having throughout her body.

Ultimately, Patty had to appear at a hearing (to a large extent, I believe, as a result of the fact that there were conflicting opinions as to what was causing her problems). In the months leading up to the hearing, she was referred to a neurologist for additional tests (which caused the neurologist to believe that her neck problems may in fact be disk-related after all, and may be amenable to surgery), while at the same time being referred to a rheumatologist for further diagnosis and treatment of her Fibromyalgia (which the rheumatologist confirmed as an appropriate working diagnosis as well).

I am happy to say that Patty's testimony was quite clear and consistent as well. As we always do, we spent a great deal of time preparing Patty for what she could expect in terms of how the hearing would be handled and what types of questions would be asked by the presiding Administrative Law Judge. It was clear at the time of the hearing that the Judge appreciated and understood Patty's story, and how seriously her medical conditions were affecting her from both a physical and mental health standpoint. Unfortunately, Patty remained quite destitute and reliant on friends and family while awaiting hearing. We received a fully favorable decision just 3 weeks after the hearing which, within hours of being posted in her electronic file, was relayed to Patty: to say she was thrilled was an understatement. To know that Patty trusted us as she did with her case and to be able to share this result with her makes this practice all worthwhile.

Denise is a forty-eight (48) year old woman who had worked for many years as a housing inspector before becoming disabled from working as a result of her asthmatic bronchitis. To Denise's credit, she attempted to return to work on 2 occasions prior to the need to file for disability benefits (but both returns to work were short lived given her continuing medical problems). She came to our office after being denied initially on her New Hampshire claim, thus requiring that we file a request for hearing on her behalf. In the interim, Denise was being paid long term disability benefits by a private insurance company (and under the terms of this policy, she was required to apply for benefits). What became clear upon our involvement is that the Social Security Administration had a very small portion of the medical record. They did not have a copy of the long term disability file which likewise contained some very helpful documentation concerning her condition. Moreover, at the time of the prior agency determination, no treatment provider (not her primary care physician nor her pulmonologist) had addressed the extent of her disabling conditions. The additional medical records made clear that she was being provided multiple courses of oral prednisone to try and address her condition, required multiple hospitalizations and was continuing to require the use of a nebulizer at home 3 times a day (in addition to her inhalers) so as to address her condition. Likewise, the records make clear that Denise was refraining from smoking as recommended by her doctors (which was likewise extremely important to her case). I am happy to report that as a result of the additional medical documentation we were able to obtain and submit on Denise's behalf, as well as the residual functional capacity assessments we were able to obtain from both her primary care physician and her pulmonologist, we were able to obtain a fully favorable decision prior to the need for her to go to a hearing at the Manchester Office of Disability Adjudication and Review.