Summary: 53 year old female with rheumatoid arthritis
Client profile: my client is a 53 year old female with a high school education and past work as the owner of a marital arts studio where she ran the business and taught students. In 2014 she sold the business to a relative but comes in several days a week to socialize with customers and to consult with the new owners.
Claim background: my client filed for disability benefits in the spring of 2015. A hearing was held in a north Georgia hearing office in July, 2017.
Factors in our favor:
- my client’s medical record reflects consistent treatment with her rheumatologists
- the medical record indicates that my client’s symptoms of stiffness and pain have increased even as she has been compliant with treatment
- the medical record indicates that my client has experienced significant medication side effects including fatigue, nausea and excessive urination
- the judge assigned to our case is very reasonable
Factors not in our favor:
- my client does go into her old business several times a week and does perform some job related duties
- we do not have a completed functional capacity evaluation in the file
My strategy: I felt that the medical record in our case was very strong and that my client would make a very good witness. She is clearly motivated to work and would not have stopped if she could have continued. The medical record also described some very powerful medications such as methotrexate and plaquenil with significant side effects that have been prescribed for my client, and based on past experience, I felt that the judge would be receptive to testimony about both symptoms and medication side effects.
Hearing Report: my client and I entered the hearing room and were greeted by the judge. After dispensing with preliminary matters the judge began the hearing by asking background questions before turning the questioning over to me.
I began by asking my client to describe the progression of her rheumatoid arthritis during the years leading up to her decision to close her business. She spoke about worsening symptoms and her efforts to work through the pain and limitation of movement. She identified joints in her elbows, knees, hands and feet that were especially painful and testified that her medical regimen since onset included injections and pills that left her nauseous, weak and with headaches.
I also asked her about her urination patterns and she testified that she was using the restroom every 45 minutes to an hour.
I asked my client about her continued involvement with her son’s business and she explained to the judge that she was earning about $300 per month, dropping in when she could and resting as needed. The judge asked a few follow up questions but seemed satisfied with this explanation.
After I concluded my direct examination the judge turned to the vocational witness and asked him to identify the claimant’s past work, which he did. The judge then asked him to consider a hypothetical person who would be off task for 15% of the workday – how would that impact the claimant’s capacity to perform past work or any other work. The VE testified that such a person would not be able to sustain employment of any type.
Conclusions: the judge will approve this case because the medical record was very complete, my client was very credible and her condition is one that usually produces work limiting complications and requires medications with significant side effects.