Summary: 29 year old man with multiple sclerosis win approval of his SSI claim
Client profile: 29 year old male
Education: 11th grade education + GED
Past work: the claimant had no listed earnings. He testified that he worked for relatives on a cash basis. The judge seemed satisfied that he had been doing something constructive post-high school but found as a matter of fact that the claimant had no past relevant work.
Claim background: the claimant filed for benefits in January, 2012 and alleged an onset date in the summer of 2011. As this was an SSI only claim the January, 2012 filing date also serves as the onset date. A hearing was held in the Atlanta area in April, 2014.
Factors in our favor:
- multiple sclerosis is an incurable, degenerative disease.
- I had a very supportive functional capacity form from a treating neurologist
- my client has a consistent treatment record with his neurologist
- the judge in our case is very pleasant and approves a higher than average percentage of claims
Factors not in our favor:
- my client was very young for disability
- the medical record suggested that medications and physical therapy had been effective in restoring a great deal of function. For example, at the time of the 2011 diagnosis my client needed a walker and experienced blurred vision. As of the date of the hearing my client could walk without an assistive device and rarely experienced blurred vision
My strategy: I felt that the medical record in this case was compelling even if my client appeared young and healthy.
Hearing Report: our hearing started late so I had plenty of time to talk to my client and his mother about the issues in the case. We had previously reviewed the issues in our pre-hearing conference.
We entered the hearing room and the judge introduced himself, his hearing assistant and the vocational witness. After accepting the case file into evidence the judge asked me for a brief opening statement, which I gave.
The judge then asked a few preliminary questions then turned the hearing over to me.
I felt that this case would turn mostly on the record as opposed to testimony so my direct examination was brief. I started by asking my client to describe his condition back in the summer of 2011 when he was first diagnosed. We then discussed his treatment and current symptoms. We established through testimony that his symptoms were most apparent when the claimant got hot – either due to hot weather or to over exertion. We also established that he could perform sit down activities for about two hours as long as he could take a 20 to 30 minute break, and that two to three hours of sustained activity was his limit (this mirrored what was included in the functional capacity evaluation). My client also testified that two to three times per week he woke up with no energy at all and did very little on those days.
The judge asked a few follow up questions then turned to the vocational expert. As there was no past work the judge moved right to the hypothetical question:
- assume no past work
- the hypothetical person can left 20 lbs. occasionally and 10 lbs. frequently
- he can stand 2 hours out of an 8 hour day
- he can sit 4 hours out of an 8 hour day
- pushing, pulling, stair climbing, kneeling crawling, crouching occasional
- no ladders or scaffolds
- frequent reaching and fingering
- avoid heat and humidity
- avoid unprotected heights
- limited to simple, 1 to 3 step tasks
- avoid jobs that require close attention to detail
- avoid stressful jobs like those requiring regular production
Are there any jobs that meet this profile in the economy?
The VE testified that there were not. This profile does not describe full time work.
The judge then noted that because of the claimant’s age he would include in his decision a direction for a continuing disability review in 3 years.
Conclusions: the medical record and the supportive functional capacity form in this case gave the judge no choice but to issue an approval.