Summary: 64 year old male with college education and long work history alleging disability based on aggressive and metastasized prostate cancer.
Client profile: 64 year old male with long, consistent work history in the health care industry
Claim background: my client filed for benefits in October, 2016. A hearing was held in north Georgia in September, 2018.
Factors in our favor:
- the medical record in this case documents aggressive and invasive prostate cancer that has spread
- my client has undergone multiple surgeries and pursued various therapies without significant effect
- the judge is our case is very reasonable
Factors not in our favor:
- we did not have a functional capacity evaluation from my client’s oncologist
- my client is highly educated and before filing for SSDI (but while undergoing treatment) was able to work part time
My strategy: I felt that the record in this case speaks for itself. My client comes across as very credible and was prepared to testify about a number of significant work activity limitations, including incontinence, urinary frequency and urgency, pain, fatigue, and memory and concentration loss.
Hearing Report: my client and I arrived at the hearing office and were greeted by the judge. Interestingly the vocational witness knew my client, although their relationship was more as passing acquaintances than true friends. Because of this, however, the judge asked my client and me if we had any objections to the VE serving in this case (we did not).
After swearing in my client and the vocational witness, and accepting the claims file into evidence, the judge asked me for a brief opening statement. I advised her that my client was now 64 years old and had a college education and a professional license in an allied health care job.
In September, 2013 he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, after which he underwent a radical prostatectomy the diseased prostate gland. His Gleason score, which indicates the aggressiveness of the cancer, was very high.
In April, 2014 my client underwent radiation treatment and later that hear he underwent 5 balloon dilation treatments later that year to help with urine flow.
In 2015, his cancer markers showed an increase so his doctors began androgen deprivation therapy (essentially chemical castration). In December, 2015 he underwent surgery to remove a blockage in his urinary tract.
In 2016 he underwent additional surgery to remove surgical clips that were blocking his bladder, while continuing with androgen deprivation therapy. In September, 2016, a body scan showed that his cancer had metastasized to his bones (at this point he filed for SSDI).
Since 2016, he has continued to treat with an oncologist, who has been addressing localized tumor formation in my client’s right leg and rib cage. Perhaps as a result of medications and radiation my client now has bulging discs at L3/4 and L4/5, associated with significant pain and fatigue. He has been prescribed narcotic pain medications and is currently participating in a medication trial for his metastasized cancer.
The judge had reviewed the record and after I gave my opening she made it clear that she only had a few questions. She asked my client several leading questions to confirm that he had a great deal of fatigue and pain and that he needed to rest every 30 minutes or so.
The judge noted to me that it appeared that my client meets the listing at 13.11 but that in the interest of thoroughness she would ask a question to the vocational witness, which was:
Assume a hypothetical person who is the same age as the claimant with the same education and work history. Assume further
this individual is limited to sedentary work
- he would need a job that allows for a sit/stand option
- he would need to change position every 30 minutes
- no ladders, ropes or scaffolds
- no work around hazardous equipment or unprotected heights
- he would require a rest period away from his work site for 15 minutes every hour
Could such a person perform the claimant’s past work?
Could such a person perform any work in the regional or national economy?
A: No – the 15 minute per hour rest periods would be considered excessive.
The judge then asked me if I had any questions. I did not.
The judge then closed the hearing and wished my client the best of luck.
Conclusions: the judge will approve this case. My sense was that after listening to my opening statement, the judge was thinking “why are we here?” My client’s medical condition is much more serious and work limiting then the majority of claims that are approved by Social Security judges. This case should have been approved at the initial application stage and it is shameful that my client had to wait 2 years for the financial assistance he so clearly deserves.