Social Security Disability & SSI Benefits are ALL WE DO!
A 32-year-old male had experienced weakness and clumsiness in his youth but could never determine why. His symptoms progressively worsened where he started experiencing seizures, fatigue, muscle pain, and weakness. He had to stop working because of his poor health. Doctors’ thought he had cerebral palsy. It turns out, after a biopsy was performed, my client had a form of muscular dystrophy. We had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge and won. This case illustrates that some medical conditions are difficult to diagnose, such as multiple sclerosis, migraines, fibromyalgia, and Parkinson’s disease. We, the social security attorneys and clients, have to be persistent to get the proper diagnosis so treatment can be given. We don’t give up and I know our clients won’t either.
I recently had the opportunity to represent a claimant suffering from a lengthy history of back pain. Unfortunately, it was discovered that he additionally had bone cancer, a likely reason for his pain severity. Due to his illness, he was unable to travel to his social security hearing. I successfully lobbied to allow my client to testify via telephone for his disability hearing, which is unusual. Additionally, I was able to convince the Administrative Law Judge to grant benefits a year prior to his actual cancer diagnosis. Although my client had been suffering from pain for quite some time with no actual diagnosis, the medical evidence eventually revealed a condition capable of producing the symptoms alleged. My client was able to have his case heard with compassion and speed.
Chronic Migraine Headaches
I recently received a Favorable Decision after an Administrative Law Judge hearing awarding benefits to my client, a 35 year old female, who suffers from chronic migraine headaches. These cases are hard to win because the client has to be very credible when testifying about the frequency and severity of the migraine headaches. It was very helpful to have a supportive treating doctor who kept very detailed notes concerning my client’s migraine headaches. This case demonstrates why it is so important to have a believable client and a supportive treating doctor in your corner.
Many times, it can take years of medical testing to discover the cause of physical symptoms. In a recent case I represented a client who for years was thought to have bad feet or ‘plantar fasciitis’. With this diagnosis, his case had been denied at the initial level. As his symptoms progressed to include numbness and burning pain, objective nerve testing finally revealed a diagnosis of progressive, length-dependent polyneuropathy. With this updated medical testing and assessment, combined with testimony regarding his symptoms at the social security hearing, I was able to successfully obtain disability benefits for my client. Although my client had experienced his symptoms for years, it was a difficult condition to diagnosis given his combination of symptoms. Unfortunately, it can take years for medical diagnoses to become clear and confirmed.
I recently had a case where my client suffered from severe depression. I felt that the record of multiple psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts, combined with the treating doctor opinion gave me a great record. My client easily becomes tearful and her outward demeanor does not reflect someone with the capacity to work. When testifying, she had a difficult time remembering dates and presented herself as someone with poor communication skills. I had her testify about her symptoms including her withdrawal, isolation from people and crying spells. The judge asked my client several times about her psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts. I think that these factors were the deciding elements that helped the judge decide that my client’s testimony was credible.
As is the case with many of my fibromyalgia cases, this client fit the profile of a high achiever with an extensive medical record and a type A personality. My client was a nurse for many years, performing multiple nursing duties. She began experiencing extreme fatigue and memory issues on the job. She was seeing her internist for hypertension, fatigue and migraine headaches. She then saw a rheumatologist who diagnosed fibromyalgia and documented her trigger points. I was able to get the rheumatologist to complete a functional capacity form, which identified a number of vocational limiting factors. Social Security sent the claimant to a psychologist for a consultative exam, and the psychologist identified issues with concentration such that the claimant would not be able to adhere to a typical workday schedule or maintain adequate pace at even a simple I felt that this was a strong case. The claimant had extensive and on-going treatment, and she had unconditional support from her treating doctors. She also had objectively observable medical issues, including neck and back problems, a mild heart problem and partially controlled hypertension. Although none of these medical problems was likely to be enough to support her claim for disability, when taken in combination and taken along with her fibromyalgia diagnosis, it was compelling evidence. My client was a good witness and she spoke about each of the areas of her body that were causing problems. The judge noted that her medical history was consistent and long-standing and that she had a solid work history. I think that the factors that helped win the case was my client’s solid work history, regular visits to the doctor, support from two treating doctors, one of which was a specialist who documented her trigger points and a judge who was very familiar with the file and who had no philosophical objection to a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Although relatively young, my client had a history of degenerative back problems including a prior laminectomy surgery several years ago and later bulging discs and even a small herniation. She continued to be in pain management. Her doctors explained to her given the arthritis in her spine and the degeneration of her discs, she should not expect much in the way of pain relief with further surgery. As a result of her chronic pain, my client had also become severely depressed and a consultative psychological evaluation in the file documenting a number of significant work activity limitations arising from the depression, including problems with attention and concentration, emotional stability at work and reliability The medical record of consistent treatment and surgery really spoke for itself. I pointed out to the judge her efforts at reducing pain with conservative treatment and her resort to surgery. I noted that the surgery had not been successful in eliminating all her pain and numbness. Since the medical evidence in this case was solid and my client came across as sincere and clearly appeared to be in pain, the judge announced that he would be finding my client disabled.
I recently had a case where my client had ulcerative colitis. The main issue I argued was the functional issues with this disease which include frequent, unscheduled bathroom breaks associated. Further, colitis is difficult to treat effectively. I argued to the judge that my client was likely to miss work and would be very uncomfortable because of their condition. Additionally, unscheduled bathroom breaks can make it impossible for a worker to keep a job. I also argued to the judge that affected individuals frequently experience a great deal of pain in the restroom and have a difficult time getting through the workday. Most affected individuals take restroom breaks for 15-30 minutes at a time, thus causing work performance issues because of the time consumed in going to the restroom. Most judges recognize that gastrointestinal irritation can and does cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. In this case, my client’s long work history enhanced his credibility despite a less than extensive medical record. The judge asked a few questions about the frequency of my client’s bathroom issues. The client explained the pain and frequent restroom breaks as well as the embarrassment he experienced from his previous job because of his frequent long visit to the restroom. The judge asked the client about how his medication is helping him. The client testified that he had been on Prednisone for many months and that other medications were given to control the inflammation. However, the prescribed medications only work for a while and would eventually lose effectiveness. The judge granted the case and benefits were paid.
I had a case where a younger person had severe rheumatoid arthritis. It is important in these types of cases to have clear diagnostic test results. Rheumatoid arthritis can be detected in blood levels as well as by x-rays and the tests results which sometimes can be inconclusive. In this case, my client’s doctor had not only performed blood tests that showed a positive Rh factor and elevated sedimentation rates, but the doctor had written down how my client had reported feeling including his impressions as to redness, stiffness, and swelling of the joints. These notes were excellent documentation of my client’s illness and in my opinion is what won the case. As a result of her chronic pain, my client had also become severely depressed and a consultative psychological evaluation in the file documented a number of significant work activity limitations arising from the depression, including problems with attention and concentration, emotional stability at work and reliability. It also helped that my client was very credible when testifying at the hearing. She described her pain and inflammation and constant swelling in her hands and feet and medication side effects (Methotrexate and Plaquinil). Three weeks following our hearing, my client received a favorable decision by a written
Disclaimer: This story is based on a real case. The names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals involved. Information presented here is general in nature and should not be construed as formal legal advice or as the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Cases differ and past performance does not guarantee future results.