Recent Social Security Decisions
PROGRESSION OF GOUT AND MEDICATION SIDE EFFECTS LEADS TO FULLY FAVORABLE
DECISION IN SOCIAL SECURITY CLAIM
Judge Foley approved benefits to a claimant on November 30, 2012 based
on progressive gout. The claimant in this case was a banker and had a
very sedentary job. By putting in over 6 years of longitudinal records
from his rheumatologist, claimant was able to show the progression of
his symptoms. What had started as simple gout in the feet had spread over
the years to his knees, wrists, elbows and hands. The medications used
to control these symptoms had severe side effects which left the claimant
nauseated. Therefore, despite the claimant being a younger individual,
the Judge was able to conclude the claimant could not perform even sedentary
work due to the combination of pain and medication side effects. The case
was handled by attorney Leslie Riviere, Esq.
SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFIT SUSPENSION RECINDED FOR VETERAN STILL FEELING THE
EFFECTS OF POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
A fully favorable decision dated November 15, 2012 from Judge Messina involved
an Iraq war veteran. The claimant had been seriously injured when his
Bradly armored vehicle hit an IED. Due to his massive lower leg injuries
the claimant was originally awarded disability benefits, but the Social
Security Administration determined the claimant had improved sufficiently
by 2011 that the benefits could be suspended. Attorney Leslie Riviere
was able to show that the claimant was still suffering the effects of
a closed head injury and PTSD to an extent that prohibited gainful employment,
and benefits were continued.
CARDIAC CONDITION LEADING TO MISSED TIME FROM WORK, SUFFICIENT TO PROVE
ELIGIBILITY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY
An October 19, 2012 fully favorable decision was based upon the claimant's
cardiac condition, and the progression of the condition over several years.
Despite medication management, the claimant's heart condition left
him weak and dizzy. This created a hazard for his employer's, as the
claimant had passed out at work on several occasions. By introducing copies
of the claimant's payroll records, we were able to demonstrate that
even part-time work required too much physical effort and therefore the
claimant was permanently disabled. The decision was from Judge Paul Johnston
and the case was handled by attorney Leslie Riviere, Esq.
PARENT OF DECEASED CHILD SHOWN TO BE GREIVING MANY YEARS LATER, AWARDED
SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS
A September 27, 2012 decision in favor of the claimant was based entirely
on psychiatric illness, which resulted from the death of the claimant's
child. What made the case unusual was that the child had passed away several
years prior, so the claimant had to show the condition was ongoing and
severe enough to prevent any kind of work, over a period of time. This
was accomplished by getting the claimant's psychiatrist and counselor
to answer written questions about the severity of the psychiatric condition
and getting that evidence introduced at trial. The case was handled by
attorney Leslie Riviere, Esq.
DESPITE NO WORK HISTORY, SUPPLEMENTAL SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS AWARDED
TO MENTALLY DEPRESSED CLAIMANT
An August 24, 2012 decision from Judge Ayer was based on the psychiatric
illness of the claimant alone. What made the case unusual was the claimant
had not worked in over 15 years an had essentially had a nervous breakdown
when her husband filed for divorce. There was only one major hospitalization
and then psychiatric care which followed. The claimant herself was not
aware of how her emotional state made her difficult to employ, so a family
member was brought in to testify on the claimant's behalf. After learning
just how dependent the claimant was on family for support, a fully favorable
decision was issued. The case was handled by attorney Leslie Riviere, Esq.
VETERAN AWARDED SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY WHEN DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE
WERE PROVEN TO BE IMMATERIAL
An August 1, 2012 decision involved a veteran who had primarily back problems,
but those problems standing alone were not disabling. The claimant also
had a number of negative aspects to his file including young age, a sporadic
work history, drug abuse, legal issues and alcohol abuse. The claimant
followed the instructions of his lawyer, Leslie Riviere, and remained
in steady treatment at the VA, seeking counseling and psychiatric care
for his unstable mood. Ultimately the judge found the alcohol and drug
abuse were not material to the claim, and ruled in favor of the veteran,
finding the number of physical problems the veteran had were disabling.
SCHIZOPHRENIC CLAIMANT AWARDED DISABILITY BENEFITS BASED ON DELUSIONAL
WRITINGS AND STATEMENTS
A July 2, 2012 decision from Administrative Law Judge F. H. Ayer, finding
a client totally disabled as a result of psychiatric symptoms. In this
instance the claimant was only 26 years old and had a lengthy drug, alcohol
and prison record. Making matters more difficult, the claimant did not
have a treating psychiatrist who was willing to comment about his/her
current psychiatric state. Faced with a difficult set of factual circumstances,
attorney Riviere detailed the claimant's short work attempts, read
from the claimant's own application for benefits and had the claimant
testify. It became apparent to the judge that the claimant was in fact
schizophrenic, and that his drug, alcohol and difficulties with the law
were all by-products of his schizophrenia. The claimant was awarded benefits,
with a representative payee responsible for disbursement of the funds.
CLAIMANT WITH DATE L AST INSURED ISSUE AWARDED BENEFITS AFTER ATTORNEY
PIECES TOGETHER 10 YEARS OF OLD RECORDS
A June 20, 2012 decision from Administrative Law Judge Steven Slahta found
a client totally disabled based on psychiatric symptoms. The decision
was interesting because the client's date last insured was June 30,
2006. The attorney had to prove the client's disability began 6 years
ago in order to entitle her to benefits. This was done by gathering older
medical records through her health insurance carrier, her long term disability
carrier, and credit card waivers signed by doctors as far back as 2002.
STEADY WORK HISTORY PROVES DECIDING FACOR IN CLAIM FOR DISABILITY BENEFITS
Judge Tanya Garrian, via video conference, awarded the claimant benefits
on August 23, 2013, reversing the denials at the administrative level.
The claimant had an advanced case of type II diabetes, compete with peripheral
neuropathy, unsteady A1C results and morbid obesity. In cases where pain
is often the deciding factor, the judge must determine whether the claimant's
complaints of pain are credible in light of the medical history. Careful
scrutiny was given to all of the records provided by the claimant, but
in the end Judge Garrian was persuaded by the claimant's near perfect
work history over 30 years. The claimant had been sick much of the time,
but had been steadfast in her attendance at work, never missing much time
until her doctor's told her to stop working. When a claimant earns
significantly more at work, than they could on disability, the benefit
of the doubt goes to the claimant.
PREMATURE BABY WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS AWARDED SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY
On September 25, 2013 Judge Tanya Garrian awarded SSI benefits to a three
year old that exhibited continued developmental delays. It is no secret
that premature babies are often born underweight and with developmental
delays. Sometimes, children outgrow their developmental problems and sometimes
they do not. When assessing disability before a child is able to speak,
testing is key. There are many tests which can be performed on children
this young, which do not require verbal answers. Pediatric neurologists
and "Early Steps" programs will often perform these tests. In
this case, the tests revealed the child had such severe speech and learning
delays, he was determined to be markedly impaired in multiple domains.
If a child is markedly impaired in two or more domains of development,
they are considered disabled.
MINOR CHILD WITH LISTING LEVEL ECZEMA AWARDED SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME BENEFITS
A toddler, with a severe case of eczema was awarded SSI benefits by ALJ
John D. McNamee-Alemany in St. Petersburg on September 3, 2013. Attorney
Leslie C. Riviere conferenced with the child's dermatologist who agreed
the eczema has remained severe enough, long enough, that the child met
listing level severity under Blue Book section 108.05. Once the dermatologist
signed off on a statement indicating the child's condition met listing
level severity, Judge McNamee agreed it was in the child's best interests
that benefits be awarded. In addition, Judge's are always interested
to know how the extra income afforded by Social Security will benefit
the child. In this case the child needed specialized shampoo's, skin
creams and extra clothing that was often not covered by insurance.
COMPLICATIONS FROM DIABETES SUFFICIENT TO PRIVE ELIGIBILITY FOR TITLE II
On October 11, 2013 Judge Kurt Ehrman awarded benefits to a younger woman
who suffered from complications from diabetes to include peripheral neuropathy,
fibromyalgia, headaches and chronic fatigue. As a matter of practice,
claimant's with fibromyalgia often have co-morbid symptoms which can
be elicited from a careful examination of the medical records. It is important
to demonstrate a longitudinal record of muscle pain in fibromyalgia cases
involving at least 14 of 18 potential trigger points over all 4 quadrants
of the body. In this case, EMG/NCV testing also confirmed the presence
of neuropathy of the legs and carpal tunnel. Morbid obesity in this claimant
made her degenerative disc disease more painful. Side effects of her medications
and depression made concentration difficult, leading the judge to conclude
the claimant was disabled from work, based on a combination of symptoms.
FIVE YEAR OLD CHILD AWARDED SSI BENEFITS BASED ON DEVELOPMENTAL AND SPEECH DELAY
Administrative Law Judge Johnathan Baird found a child eligible for benefits
based on developmental delays. The Order of November 20, 2013 found the
test results generated by Batelle Developmental Inventory testing, commonly
referred to as BDI-II, were sufficient to establish marked impairments.
The BDI testing had been performed on this child over a period of several
years as recommended by the test developers and state guidelines. While
the test showed improvement, the results were still more than 1 and 1/2
standard deviations below normal for a normal child of similar age. In
addition, the child's connected speech was only 20% intelligible,
rendering the toddler frustrated and aggressive toward others. Such aggression
in a child required increased supervision from adults, particularly teachers,
as was evident from his school IEP records. Judge Baird found the child
markedly impaired in multiple domains.
Cases involving delayed speech very often involve added aggression on the
part of the child, both toward adults and other children. The result is
increasing isolation and loss of social skills, either because other children
avoid contact or through removal of the child from the classroom setting
out of safety concerns for other students. The speech delay is often compounded
as a result of the isolation. Attorney Leslie Riviere handled this case
and notes there are many private facilities in the area that administer
BDI testing if the child's case requires follow up testing.
LONG TIME CITY EMPLOYEE AWARDED DISABILITY BENEFITS AFTER EXTENSIVE PROOF
OF RETURN TO WORK EFFORTS MADE CLEAR
On November 22, 2013 Judge Paul Johnston awarded disability benefits to
a 26 year City of Tampa employee with chronic low back pain. The Judge
was persuaded by the fact that the claimant not only held down a full
time job working construction for the city, but a second job as a delivery
driver. The claimant demonstrated he normally worked a 60 to 70 hour week,
earning close to six figures. He had multiple work related injuries through
the years and returned to work after every injury. The judge gave the
claimant the benefit of the doubt when at last he testified his injuries
caught up with him and he was no longer able to work. A long, steady work
history is a plus in a disability claim.
VETERAN AWARDED DISABILITY BENEFITS WHEN JUDGE CONCLUDES EARNINGS UNDER
WOUNDED WARRIOR PROGRAM DON'T COUNT
On December 6, 2013 ALJ Paul Johnston awarded benefits to a combat veteran
who had worked for 2 years under the wounded warrior program. This program,
set up by Congress, is designed to help military veterans with significant
injuries reintegrate into the work force. There are employer incentives
to hire veterans. In this particular case, attorney Leslie C. Riviere
was able to show that the work was partially sheltered, thereby allowing
the judge to ignore the income when determining eligibility for disability
benefits. Every job held by a veteran under the wounded warrior program
must be evaluated individually, to see if the work is substantial, or
modified to accommodate a disability. If modified, you can argue the earnings
were not entirely "earned" so the judge can ignore the income
and move on to the issue of whether the veteran's disability impairs
his/her ability to work.
DEPARTMENT STORE CLERK FOUND DISABLED FROM DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE
A 61 year old retail clerk was found disabled because of difficulty standing,
caused by degenerative disc disease. The decision from Judge Christopher
Messina on January 24, 2014, found the claimant had established severe
radicular pain as a result of the disc disease. The pain, the result of
years of standing, traveled down both legs and required the claimant use
a cane for stability. The claimant also had a rotator cuff tear, which
made lifting difficult. Attorney Leslie Riviere was able to show that
the combination of the claimant's inability to stand for any length
of time, the need for a cane and difficulty lifting, made continued work
in the retail industry impossible. Once a claimant is over 55, the burden
shifts to the Social Security Administration to show retraining the claimant
to another job might result in re-employment. Given this claimant's
advanced age and employment history, retraining was not considered feasible.
JUDGE AWARDS DISABILITY BENEFITS BASED IN PART ON FMLA PAPERWORK
On February 28, 2014 Judge Johnathan Baird concluded a claimant, suffering
from atrial fibrillation, gastrointestinal distress and embolic strokes,
was entitled to disability benefits based in part on the claimant's
FMLA paperwork. Each year the claimant had taken a large number of hours
off from work due to illness or treatment for her illness. The number
of hours taken was so large and went on so long, we asked the claimant
to provide a copy of her time off from work. Years of computerized data
was submitted showing the claimant had not only missed more than a third
of her work for the last 4 years, but that other employees had donated
time to the claimant to help her make up for the lost income.
When co-employee donate their own, hard earned, hours to another employee,
you can guess the employees know their co-worker is pretty sick. The rules
of evidence in Social Security cases is very relaxed and evidence of disability
can come from many unexpected sources.
CLAIMANT WITH LOW I.Q. AWARDED SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS WHEN
SHELTERED EMPLOYMENT PROVEN.
A February 28, 2014 decision from Judge Ballieu awarded benefits to a mildly
mentally impaired claimant, with a low I.Q. The biggest obstacle to winning
this case was the fact that the claimant had worked and earned substantial
income for over seven years. We were able to convince the judge the claimant
was still entitled to benefits based on the fact the claimant's work
had been sheltered. Attorney Leslie C. Riviere argued the claimant's
mother and sister had worked along side the claimant, guiding his work.
Without their help, the claimant would not have been able to remain on
task and complete his work assignments. Evidence of this fact was also
gathered from former and current employers. Psychiatric records, I.Q.
testing, and school records, showing the claimant had been in special
education since the 6th grade, rounded out the evidence submitted. The
judge determined the claimant's work was in fact sheltered and that
he was not capable of full-time, competitive employment. Social Security
disability benefits were awarded and the claimant continues to work part-time.
CHILDHOOD HEAD INJURY PROGRESSES TO COGNITIVE PERSONALITY AND EMOTIONAL
LIMITATIONS AS ADULT
Claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity (full time work)
since 12/31/08. The Judge found that he had a history of head trauma,
bipolar disorder and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Claimant was found to have the capacity to perform heavy work with a few
limitations. He could only perform simple repetitive tasks due to cognitive
deficits. He would have difficulty with interaction with the public, coworkers
or supervisors. Claimant was in his late 40s when his disability began.
Fully Favorable Decision on January 21, 2014 from Tampa, Florida.
REQUEST FOR LIMITED OR CLOSED PERIOD APPROVED
Due to the claimant's improved medical condition the claim was modified
to be limited to the period of October 31, 2010 to August 12, 2012. Her
medical conditions included degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint
disease as well as depression and anxiety. It was found that claimant
could not function effectively/productively on a sustained basis in a
competitive work environment. Specifically, claimant had a frozen left
shoulder (dominant arm) with past work as a metal machine operator, cashier,
shipping and receiving and clerical. Claimant was in her mid 50s.
Partially Favorable Decision on December 16, 2013 from Tampa, Florida.
YOUNGER INDIVIDUAL (AGE 45-49) WITH LIMITED EDUCATION WAS NOT ABLE TO DO
SEDENTARY WORK AWARDED BENEFITS
Claimant's acquired job skills did not transfer to other occupations
within her physical limitations. Her impairments included multiple cervical
disc herniation and bulges with chronic pain syndrome, positive HIV, a
major depressive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Fully Favorable Decision of February 24, 2014 from Tampa, Florida.
YOUNGER INDIVIDUAL (AGE 45-49) WITH CAPACITY FOR SEDENTARY WORK AND A HIGH
SCHOOL EDUCATION AWARDED BENEFITS
Claimant had a longstanding history of mental health issues with treatment
and counseling. She also had a remote history of a motorcycle accident
with a right femur fracture followed by three other surgeries. She was
unable to perform any past relevant work. Her job skills did not transfer
to other occupations within her functional capacity.
Fully Favorable Decision of February 25, 2014 from Tampa, Florida.