Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vocational Credibility

I represent a 58 year old criminal attorney whose Social Security Disability (“SSD”) application was just approved without a hearing. I had submitted a report from the treating psychologist assessing the claimant’s mental residual functional capacity that showed he met the listing for affective disorders. However, I have submitted similar reports on other cases where a hearing was required. What was different here?

The ostensible purpose of a hearing is to assess the credibility of the claimant’s testimony if the medical records are deemed equivocal. Why was the psychologist’s report accepted as a reliable measure of the claimant’s symptomatology on this occasion? I believe the answer is the claimant’s work history.

The claimant worked for over 30 years. I cited the case law holding that a claimant with a good work record is entitled to substantial credibility when claiming inability to work because of a disability, and that such a record justifies the inference that a claimant stopped working upon becoming disabled. In other words, the vocational evidence buttressed the medical evidence.

Even more important than the longevity of the claimant’s work history was his earnings history. I emphasized that the claimant was earning $250,000 a year. I posed that if the psychologist’s opinion that the claimant met a listing were rejected, then the only issue was whether the claimant, who was earning $250,000 a year was exaggerating his claim that he lacks the ability to perform simple, unskilled work in order to receive SSD benefits equal to less than 10% of his predisability income.

Sometimes commonsense is more important than medical evidence.

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