Articles Posted in Social Security Disability

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beach-1-49307-mIn the unpublished case Tanner v. Social Security Administration, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals considered a case in which the Social Security Administration had twice denied a claimant’s disability insurance benefits claim. The case arose when the claimant, a special education teacher, got in between two fighting students. Her shoulder, neck and upper extremities were injured. She received medical treatment for a wide range of physical and mental ailments in 2006, including PTSD and depression.

She applied for disability benefits in 2007, and her claim was initially denied, and denied again upon reconsideration. She sued the Commissioner in court arguing that the administrative judge failed to look at her physicians’ opinions, failed to look at her credibility, and failed to look at the combination of her impairments.

The magistrate judge to whom the case was referred recommended further consideration of opinion evidence to the district court. The district court accepted the magistrate judge’s recommendation and rejected the other arguments.

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In a recent social security disability case, a Maryland District Court considered a situation in which the plaintiff, Kowana Chase, had been denied benefits. The plaintiff claimed disability from August 2005 through 2009 and filed her application in 2007. The disability claimed was the result of musculoskeletal connective tissue injury, status post cervical fusion, and obesity. The Commissioner denied her claim, as did the ALJ.

The District Court explained it would find her legally disabled if she was unable to do any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determined physical or mental impairment that could either result in death or could be expected last continuously for at least 12 months.

The first step was to determine if the claimant was doing substantial gainful activity. Someone able to do such activity is not disabled. The second step was to determine whether the plaintiff had a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the requirement of severity and duration. The third step is whether the plaintiff’s impairment equals or meets the listings and meets the duration requirement. If she has this type of impairment, she is disabled. If she doesn’t have an impairment that meets the listings, the court must decide if she retains residual functional capacity to perform relevant work she has performed before. If she can’t, the next step is to see if she can perform any work given her age, work experience, and education. If she can’t perform any other work, she is disabled. Continue reading →

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ambulance-1334533-m-4In a 2013 case a young man, previously diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, was admitted to the ER. He had previously been admitted voluntarily to numerous Maryland hospitals for psychiatric treatment, including the defendant hospital, several times.

He was living with his mother and teenage sister at the time in question. His mother had previously brought him in for not taking medications, not sleeping, and exhibiting pressured speech. The hospital staff admitted him to the psychiatric unit for 8 days and he was released when his psychosis was under control. This time, his mother told the nurses her son had bipolar disorder and was having a psychiatric crisis, and had not eaten, drunk any water or slept in days.

A nurse took him to have his cardiac state evaluated. The nurse performed an initial assessment. He was given a sedative, and was waiting for psychiatric evaluation. Before it could take place, he slipped away. There was no sitter or other staff member assigned to watch him and so he left the hospital wearing only a hospital gown. He approached a bridge. Continue reading →

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gavel-952313-m-2An experienced Maryland attorney can put together lay witnesses to testify on your behalf should you be required to appear at an SSI hearing. Lay witnesses can help your case by testifying as to real and significant limitations you experienced at work. However, it is important to note that their testimony also has the potential to hurt your case. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to evaluate how an administrative law judge may respond to your lay witness’s testimony and build a stronger case on your behalf.

In a recent case, the district court considered the case of a woman who claimed disability starting in 2009, several years after she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia,  She had complained of fatigue and severe pain for about a year, and x-rays showed she was experiencing degenerative changes in her hip and lower back. In 2010, she was diagnosed with leukocytoclastic vasculitis, which improved with medication treatment.

The Social Security Administration initially denied the woman’s claim and denied it again after reconsideration. She asked for a hearing. At the hearing the woman had testified she experienced severe pain the majority of the time and that it was hard for her to sit for a long period. Continue reading →

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ct-scan-70995-m-2A recent federal case arose after a plaintiff brought a claim for social security disability benefits. He was injured in a car accident in 2004. At first he complained of neck and back pain, which seemed to improve with physical therapy. His pain worsened, however, when he went back to work. An MRI was taken of his lumbar spine and a disc protrusion was found at L3-4.

A radiologist found that a nerve root would contact the protruded disc and diagnosed the plaintiff with lumbar radiculopathy. The plaintiff’s thoracic spine MRI was found “unremarkable.” The doctor treated the plaintiff with injections. An orthopedic surgeon diagnosed him with degenerative disc disease, but did not find surgery appropriate.

The plaintiff continued to have pain. Another MRI was taken and a disc protrusion was found at C4-5 touching the right C5 nerve root. The plaintiff had severe pain radiating into his arm and had to visit the emergency room. The ER physician diagnosed cervical radiculopathy, but did not think he had lumbar radiculopathy. Continue reading →

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chest-xray-262068-mThe short answer is that it depends on the plan language. However, it is common for plans to include a provision whereby the benefits they owe a claimant will be offset by any Social Security benefits they receive. A Maryland attorney familiar with both private and government disability claims can look at the written policy and help you determine what benefits are available to you.

In a recent case dealing with this issue, a plaintiff filed suit against US Cotton LLC Long Term Disability Plan and related defendants claiming, among other things, they wrongfully denied him benefits. Two defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. A third entity related to the defendants moved to dismiss the case.

The case arose when the plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). It caused him to have breathing difficulties. His doctor told him to maintain all forms of insurance. He purchased a private long-term disability policy so that his family was provided for in the event he couldn’t work. The next year, he also purchased long-term disability insurance through a new employer (US Cotton). Continue reading →

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Claimant X, a 53-year old man, had limited education and transferable skills.  He experienced constant Law Booksright leg pain as a result of a gunshot wound several years earlier.  Claimant X experienced leg pain with standing, walking, sitting and sleeping.  Because of his insurance status, he was unable to afford pain medications or go to frequent doctor visits.

The Social Security Administration sent Claimant X for a Consultation Exam to evaluate the affects of his leg pain on his ability to work.  The Doctor found Claimant X was able to lift and carry up to 10 lbs frequently and 20 lbs occasionally.  The Doctor also noted Claimant X required a medically-necessary cane to ambulate.  Based on the weight the Doctor felt he was able to lift, Claimant X was able to work in a light-duty occupation.

Social Security Rule 83-10 defines light work as “lifting no more than 20 lbs at a time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 lbs.”  Further, light work also entails “the use of arms and hands to grasp and to hold and turn objects.”  Judge Connelly in Cobb v. Astrue cites 20 C.F.R. 404 stating that “the requirement to use a hand-held assistive device may also impact the individual’s functional capacity by virtue of the fact that one or both upper extremities are not available for such activities as lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling.”  2013 WL 990323.