Thursday, January 12, 2012

SSD For Police Officer

I represent a 38 year old police officer who was just approved for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits. Like many police officers that I have represented, the claimant suffered orthopedic injuries while working as a police officer that rendered him disabled. Unlike my representation of other police officers seeking SSD benefits, the claimant was approved in less than three months without being asked to attend a consultative examination (“CE”).

The claimant’s physiatrist and arthritis specialist provided supporting records and reports. However, that alone is not usually sufficient to avoid being directed to attend a CE. I ascribe the anomaly to the fact that in the recent past the claimant had been receiving pain management from a physician who has performed CEs for Social Security in connection with SSD applications. If I’m right, this raises two implications.

The first implication is that Social Security presumes that treating doctors lack credibility. Despite my submitting supporting medical records and reports when applying for SSD benefits, Social Security virtually always asks that my clients attend a CE to be performed by one of their doctors. In other words, it is presumed that a treating source’s opinion cannot be relied upon. That implicit assumption runs counter to the Social Security rules and regulations that require greater weight to be given to treating sources, because their opinions are supposed to be considered more reliable.

The second implication that is raised is whether one should consider seeking treatment from a doctor who also works for the CE provider, which in New York is usually Industrial Medicine Associates (“IMA”). While experience indicates that the doctors who work for IMA may lack the qualifications of a claimant’s other treating doctors, it appears that Social Security will give undue weight to the doctor who also works for IMA. While the IMA doctor probably will not improve a claimant’s treatment, it apparently could expedite the receipt of SSD benefits.

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