Summary: 24 year old female with diagnoses of limited intellectual functioning, bi-polar disorder and Asperger’s syndrome approved for Title II disability
Client profile: 24 year old female
Education: attended special education classes for entire school career, including elementary, middle and high school. Attended classes post high school in unsuccessful effort to obtain her GED.
Past work: multiple light, unskilled job including bagger at grocery store, cashier, costumed character at restaurant, clothes sorter and dog watcher. Most of these jobs lasted no more than 2 or 3 months, and many lasted only a few days.
Claim background: the claimant filed for benefits several years ago but never appealed. Her current application was filed in early 2012, alleging an onset in 2007. A hearing was held in an Atlanta hearing office in April, 2014.
Factors in our favor:
- medical record contains two psychological evaluations showing an IQ of less than 75
- medical record contains consistent diagnosis of limited intellectual functioning and bi-polar disorder
- the claimant attempted to perform numerous entry-level, unskilled jobs but was not successful
- the claimant’s behavior during the hearing showed her to be sincere and honest, but also emotionally fragile and lacking interpersonal skills
Factors not in our favor:
- the claimant is extremely young to be applying for disability benefits
- while it appears that the claimant may have Asperger’s syndrome, there is no firm diagnosis of this condition
- the consultative evaluation, which accurately describes the claimant’s behavior and includes an accurate diagnosis also concludes that her limitations are mostly mild to moderate
My strategy: I felt that the best evidence in this case was the claimant’s job history. As the issue in a Social Security disability case considers a claimant’s capacity to work, this claimant had tried and failed to remain employed at numerous entry level unskilled jobs. We also had an employment report from a local charity indicating that the claimant’s behavior (crying spells and difficulty focusing and completing tasks) made her unsuitable for a garment sorting position in a structured work environment. I also felt that the claimant and her mother would make compelling witnesses, which they did.
Hearing Report: I met with the claimant and her mother in my office several days before the hearing and we also had close to an hour to talk about what to expect on the day of the hearing. The claimant and I entered the hearing room and the judge made a thoughtful effort to put the claimant at ease. Nevertheless, the claimant cried almost continuously throughout the hearing.
After introducing herself and the vocational witness the judge asked the claimant about problems she had at past work. My client has some difficulty expressing herself and her testimony took a longer than usual time. My client recognizes that she has issues with her behavior but has limited insight as the degree of those difficulties.
The judge went down a list (which I had prepared and submitted to her) of the claimant’s past jobs and tried to ask the claimant what happened with each. I followed up the judge’s testimony with more questions about past work.
The claimant’s mother also testified without the claimant present and testified about her “obsessive” behavior of asking people the same questions over and over. The mother also discussed the claimant’s need to take a nap daily and or problems with verbal and body language cues.
After taking testimony from the claimant and the claimant’s mother the judge turned to the vocational witness. The VE identified the claimant’s past work as being all light and unskilled. The judge then asked the following hypothetical question:
Assume an individual with the same education and work background as the claimant. Assume further that this individual
- is capable of following simple instructions
- is capable of following moderately detailed instructions
- could only work at a job with intermittent interaction with the public
- needs a supportive supervisor to assist her with goal setting and changes in the work setting
- needs a supportive supervisor to provide any criticism about job performance
Could such an individual perform the claimant’s past work?
The VE testified that such an individual could not perform the claimant’s past work because supervisors at entry level jobs would not normally accommodate a person who needed this level of sensitivity in job training and evaluation and that such a level of accommodation was not consistent with competitive work.
The judge had no more questions, nor did I and she then closed the hearing.
Conclusions: the judge will approve this case. She accurately recognized that my client did not have the capacity to withstand the demands and pressures of regular employment.