Friday, August 5, 2011

Disability & Incontinence

A Social Security Disability (“SSD”) claimant with spina bifida asked me to represent him after his initial hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). The claimant had received SSD in the past, but asked that it be stopped because he wanted to try working out of his house. A couple of years later, after surgery related to his spina bifida rendered him incontinent, the claimant stopped working and reapplied for SSD.

The ALJ had sent interrogatories to a medical expert, who stated the claimant could do sedentary work, even though the spina bifida and related surgery had left him incontinent. At the hearing I was able to show that the claimant’s condition was worse when he reapplied compared to when he had originally been approved for SSD. On cross exam, the medical expert testified that he did not review any evidence from the time of the claimant’s original application, and was unable to explain why he believed the claimant could work now, even though his condition was worse than when he had been approved for SSD previously.

Prior to the hearing, I provided the ALJ with a report from a vocational expert. Her report explained in detail why the claimant’s need for bathroom breaks and access rendered the claimant incapable of working. The ALJ agreed that the claimant’s incontinence significantly compromised his ability to work, and approved his SSD application.

Just as certain medical conditions require supporting reports from treating doctors, some diseases or injuries require supporting reports from vocational experts. The ALJ had asked a medical expert, but not a vocational expert, to testify at the claimant’s hearing. Even if the ALJ had rejected the vocational expert’s report, it would have provided very strong grounds for a reversal or remand on appeal.

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