Friday, November 25, 2011

Multiple Impairments

Can you be found disabled if you have more than one medical condition even if no single impairment is disabling? Under the Social Security regulations, the answer is yes. When evaluating an application for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits, the combined effect of a claimant’s multiple impairments must be considered.

A 41 year old boilermaker from Tennessee retained me to appeal the denial of his SSD application. Six weeks after I received the claimant’s file, I submitted a request for a fully favorable decision on-the-record (“OTR”), which was approved in three weeks. Thus, the claimant was able to avoid the stress of, and wait for, a hearing.

The claimant has a seizure disorder, sleep apnea, headaches, mild memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and arthritis causing joint, neck, and back pain. None of the impairments met a listing, and no single medical condition resulted in an inability to perform simple unskilled work.

The claim file that Social Security compiled had no records from the claimant’s physician, and the prior denials were based solely on the opinion of the Social Security doctors. I not only obtained the treating doctor’s records and functionality assessment, but I detailed the multitude of medical findings that supported the disability opinion. For example, the OTR explained what encephalomalacia and hematoma are, how they were treated, and why they caused the claimant’s mental and physical limitations. I also cited the Tennessee law that justified giving the treating physician’s opinion controlling weight, which language was tracked in the decision approving benefits.

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