My firm handles many different kinds of disability cases. You can download our client intake forms by clicking on the link. Feel free to mail or fax us your intake form for a free case evaluation. Here are a few typical case areas and how we approach them:
1. Mental Health cases – Mental illness and mental health problems can strike people of any age or background. I have found that Judges accept as disabling cases involving long term, severe depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. A key to winning this type of case is to show extended treatment, even if the counseling is with a County Health Department. Psychiatric hospitalizations and suicide attempts are seen as strong evidence of a significant problem. In mental health cases, Social Security usually refers the claimant to an independent psychologist for a consultative evaluation. Psychologists, like judges, see ongoing treatment as evidence of a long-standing problem.
2. Back pain cases – It has been my experience that judges expect to see objective evidence of back pain, specifically MRI evidence of significant disc herniation. X-ray evidence is usually not very helpful, and chiropractic treatment is given very little weight. In addition to objective evidence, I have found that judges like to see evidence that a claimant has tried to work through his pain – evidence of unsuccessful work attempts can include employment records or statements from ex-co-workers or supervisors.
3. Diabetes – Diabetes is a very common disease and many people are afflicted. As such, I have found that in order to win a case based on diabetes, we must show severe complications, such as vision problems, organ damage (i.e. kidney or liver), and/or peripheral neuropathy (numbness and burning in hands and feet). I usually look for clients who have suffered with diabetes for many years and who have been unable to control their blood sugar despite compliance with regular medical care.
4. Arthritis – Like diabetes, arthritis is very common in the population. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is commonly associated with getting older. In order to win an osteoarthritis case, I look for older clients with significant deformity in their hands, feet, knees or spine and regular medical treatment. Other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, often strike younger people, and are often more severe. Rheumatoid arthritis cases are usually strong cases.
5. HIV/A.I.D.S. – The Social Security regulations provide that HIV cases should be granted when lab reports show very low T-cell levels. My experience has been that most judges view HIV cases somewhat liberally and will grant benefits even if the lab reports do not demonstrate full-blown A.I.D.S. Many HIV cases also involve depression, which can provide another theory for recovery. Again, regular treatment and a supportive treating physician is very helpful.
6. Intestinal, stomach, liver and kidney diseases – It has been my experience that internal organ diseases often produce very significant work activity limitations. For example, a person with irritable bowel syndrome might be able to function at work for a time, but would not be able to maintain employment because of frequent absences or excessive unscheduled breaks at work. A record of regular medical treatment and written support from a treating physician are necessary.
7. Neuromuscular disease cases – over the years I have had a great deal of success representing claimants with neuromuscular diseases such as multiple sclerosis, ALS, post-polio syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinsonian syndrome, and pernicious anemia. Social Security’s listing for neurological conditions is its most extensive listing meaning that SSA recognizes that these diseases can result in significant impairments to work.
8. Fibromyalgia – my typical fibromyalgia client is a 40+ year old “Type A” female who has overachieved during her working life. Often a physical or emotional trauma triggers the onset of fibromyalgia. Besides experiencing myofascial pain that seems to move all over their bodies, my clients also describe gastric upset, balance issues and “fibro fog.” While Social Security judges do acknowledge that fibromyalgia can disabled a claimant, these judges see a lot of unsupported fibromyalgia claims as well. Here, too, extensive and consistent documentation is key.
Here is an interesting chart generated by Social Security. It identifies the medical conditions most likely to be found in approved cases. You will see that musculoskeletal conditions are most frequently seen, followed by conditions involving mental health impairments. This chart is useful in that it tells us which conditions Social Security judges see most often, but it does not offer any guidance as to what percentage of musculoskeletal or mental or any other condition is likely to be approved.
My takeaway from this chart is this: if you have a commonly seen condition, you can expect that your judge will have seen plenty of these types of cases so he is likely to be familiar with treatments and procedures used in treatment. Your case needs to show compliance with your doctor’s treatment suggestions as well as results that are not typical, i.e. you have not fully recovered.
Thanks to my colleague Tomasz Stasiuk for originally posting this chart on his excellent Social Security Disability Insider blog.