Archive for the ‘Social Security Appeal’ Category
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Severe Impairment in Social Security Disability Cases – Parker-Grose v. Astrue
One of a handful of factors that the SSA and reviewing judges consider in determining whether a claimant is eligible for Social Security disability benefits is whether the claimant’s impairment(s) is sufficiently severe. In Parker-Grose v. Astrue, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals explains some of the evidence that can be used to meet this requirement.
Plaintiff Mary Jane Parker-Grose filed a claim for Social Security disability benefits, asserting that she’s unable to work due to depression. The Social Security Administration (SSA) initially denied the claim and, following an administrative hearing, an SSA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Plaintiff was not disabled for purposes of obtaining disability benefits. Specifically, the judge determined that Plaintiff’s depression is not sufficiently severe.
In order to find a claimant eligible for Social Security benefits, the SSA or a reviewing judge must find that the claimant suffers from one or more severe impairments. An impairment is severe if it “significantly limits the claimant’s ability to do basic work activities.” The SSA advises claimants “[i]f you do not have any impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limits your physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, we will find that you do not have a severe impairment and are, therefore, not disabled.” An ALJ considering the severity of a claimant’s impairment must make this decision based on substantial evidence.
In this case, the Second Circuit – which sits in New York City and whose jurisdiction covers New York state, Connecticut and Vermont – reversed the ALJ’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings, ruling that the ALJ’s finding that Plaintiff’s depression is “nonsevere” was not supported by substantial evidence. In so doing, the court noted that the severity requirement is a “de minimis” one aimed at weeding out claims in which a claimant suffers from only minimal impairment.
According to the court, two treating psychologists – Dr. Joseph M. Patalano and Dr. Richard Root II – examined Plaintiff and determined that she suffers from depression. Furthermore, Dr. Root estimated Plaintiff’s “Global Assessment of Functioning” (GAF) score – an assessment of a patient’s overall level of functioning – to be in the range of persons experiencing “moderate symptoms” including “moderate difficulty in school, work, [and] social functioning.” These opinions, the court ruled, proved that Plaintiff’s depression was sufficiently severe.
I’ve Been Denied – Do I Need a Social Security Disability Attorney
Many people in this country can not earn a living due to physical disabilities not under their control. Over 75 years ago the Social Security system was created to help these people. Unfortunately, over time, the system has in many ways broken down, and people truly in need are being denied at an alarming rate. Statistics show that over 75% of applicants are initially turned down. If you are one of these people, you need to know what to do next. If you only take away one piece of advice form the article, please remember never give up!
Reconsideration – Step 1
When an individual applies for Social Security Disability, they will usually receive a decision on their application in 90 – 180 days. Unfortunately, an extremely high percentage of applicants are turned down due to no fault of their own. If your initial application is denied, you will receive a written notice of denial explaining the reasons for the denial, and advising your of your right to file for reconsideration. Since you only have 60 days to file for your reconsideration it is very important that you file the paperwork in a timely manner. Do not delay. If you do not file for a reconsideration within the 60 day limit you have lost this right to appeal. You will have to go back to step one and file a new application.
Once you have received your notice of denial you have three options:
- Retaining a Social Security Attorney to handle your appeal
- Appeal on your own
- Give up
Retaining a Qualified Attorney
If you have been denied, consulting a qualified attorney is probably the best step to take. Most attorneys will not charge you for an initial consultation. They will meet with you to learn the specifics of your situation, and explain your options. If you decided to retain him or her, they can handle the whole appeal process. This includes working with your doctors, the SSA, process all paperwork, and represent you at any hearings. An experienced lawyer will know what information to provide to the Administration in order to get your claim allowed. He or she will then work with your medical providers to get that information into the hands of the people who are deciding your claim. Additionally, most attorneys do not receive a fee until your claim is allowed. When they are paid, their fees are capped by law at 25% of your back award or $6,000 whichever is less. These fees come directly from the SSA out of your back award. As you can see, there is very little downside to consulting and retaining an attorney to handle your appeal.
Appealing on Your Own
The appeals process is complicated, and filled with land mines. Do you really feel that you can deal with all of the forms, medical information, and still take care of yourself? The only advantage to handling a claim yourself is to save yourself a few dollars, and that is only if your claim is allowed.
Never, ever give up. As long as you have a right to appeal, you have a chance to win your claim. There is absolutely no benefit to giving up.