Sunday, October 12, 2008

Multiple Impairments

A person may be entitled to receive Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits even if no one impairment is disabling. I represent a 28 year old drug store manager woman whose SSD benefits were approved today even though she had no single medical condition that prevented her from being able to work.

The claimant, who was referred by a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) support group, came to me seeking SSD benefits because her TBI caused vertigo. The claimant’s family doctor performed diagnostic tests that confirmed the vertigo. After interviewing the claimant, I learned that she had other problems, including headaches, back problems and depression. I convinced the claimant to secure medical reports from her pain management specialist, neurologist and psychiatrist regarding her other impairments.

One of the records that I submitted was a report from a psychiatrist hired by the claimant’s employer to perform an independent medical examination (“IME”). I argued that the psychiatrist performed the exam at the request of a party with a vested interest in minimizing plaintiff's impairments – the claimant’s former employer's workers' compensation carrier, and therefore, his conclusion that the claimant could not work was highly probative as an admission against interest. Most ALJ’s do not pay much attention to a workers compensation IME conclusion because they say it is based upon a different standard. However, this ALJ had been a workers compensation ALJ, and recognized that IME conclusion do not normally support a claimant’s position.

The ALJ did not find the claimant’s vertigo, headaches, back pain, or depression disabling. However, the ALJ did find that the combined effect of the claimant’s vertigo, headaches, back pain, and so narrowed the range of work available to her that a finding of disabled was appropriate.

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