Summary: this case involved the claim of a 61 year old male high school graduate who was limited to sedentary work due to severe heart problems
Claimant: 61 year old male
Past work: wholesale produce salesman, machine operator, cashier, sales representative for advertising directory, punch-out man
Education: high school graduate
Basis of disability claim: In June of 2006, my client underwent a 4x heart bypass operation. There were complications associated with the operation, including kidney failure and at least 2 “mini-strokes.” My client is also diabetic and has diagnosed neuropathy in his right leg, which stays numb. He also complains of pain in the right leg where blood vessels were harvested for the bypass operation. More recently, my client’s cardiologist has noted that one of the blood vessels involved with the bypass is clogged. My client contends that since his surgery he suffers with exhaustion and fatigue after even minimal physical activity, short term memory loss, cognitive decline, shortness of breath and slowed reaction time.
Analysis: The hearing in this case was held in September, 2008. The record clearly documented the bypass surgery as well as the complications thereafter. Nevertheless, while my client has been receiving regular medical treatment, his primary care physician would not fill out a functional capacity form for me. Going into the hearing, I felt that he would testify credibly, but I was concerned about the absence a form.
During the hearing, my client did very well. The judge opened the hearing by asking questions about why my client could not work. My client answered an a very matter of fact tone and he came across as a simple man who was not trying to hide anything. At one point, the judge asked my client about his medications and my client handed the judge a copy of an e-mail sent to me with the list of medications. The judge looked at it and remarked that the drugs and the complications testified to were “consistent,” which made me feel that things were going well.
After taking testimony, the judge turned to the vocational witness and asked him to identify the claimant’s past work. The vocational witness in this case has testified in many hearings that I have tried and I immediately noticed that the form of his testimony had changed – he was much more specific than usual about identifying jobs and he included the Dictionary of Occupational Title numbers.
The judge then asked the VE to assume a hypothetical person who was limited to sedentary work. Could this hypothetical person return to any past work. The answer was “no” because all of the past work was light or medium.
The judge then asked a second question: “are there any transferrable skills from past work to sedentary jobs, bearing in mind that according to Social Security rules, there would have to be very minimal work adjustment in such a transfer of skills given my client’s age. The vocational witness responded: “there are no transferrable skills.”
The judge then asked if I had any questions. I responded “no,” because a claimant age 55+ with a high school education, limited to sedentary work and no transferrable skills meets the grid at 201.06., which the judge confirmed.
As a final aside – I suspect that the judge spoke with the vocational witness prior to the hearing regarding a possible grid outcome. I don’t necessarily think that the judge pre-decided the case, but I suspect that he discussed with the VE the transferrable skills question and verified that there were no transferrable skills. This would explain why the VE was so specific in identifying past work.