Thursday, October 30, 2008

Social Security Files

A person seeking Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits has a right to see his or her entire file, and that right should always be exercised before a hearing. Normally, the reason for reviewing the file is to see what harmful records are in it in order to prepare a rebuttal. However, every once in a while there is a positive surprise.

I represent 50 year old woman who stopped working as an accounting payroll clerk because of lumbar disc herniations and shoulder impairments. Her claim had been denied initially because the opinions of her arthritis specialist and physiatrist were rejected. Upon reviewing the file, I learned that each doctor had been asked to complete a form DDD-3883, which is given to treating doctors. A treating doctor’s opinion is supposed to be given controlling weight if it is well supported by clinical and diagnostic evidence.

The DDD-3883 requires, among other things, that the doctor identify the clinical findings and diagnostic tests that support his or her conclusions, which the arthritis specialist and physiatrist did. Moreover, both the arthritis specialist and physiatrist concluded that the claimant lacked the ability to perform the demands of sedentary work.

At the hearing, I argued that if the claim were denied, then it would require a determination that the form DDD-3883 was inadequate despite the fact that it provided the requisite evidence for according the opinions controlling weight. Although not mentioned in the written decision, the ALJ mentioned that it was a good point.

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