Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ileocolic Resection

Ileocolic Resection is the removal of the end of the small bowel and beginning of the colon with the two ends being joined back together. It can be required for a variety of reasons, including Crohn’s Disease.

I have a client whose ileocolic resection left her with chronic diarrhea that would occur without warning. As a result, the claimant said she needed constant bathroom access, which her gastroenterologist confirmed. Furthermore, her gastroenterologist stated that the claimant would need half hour bathroom breaks multiple times a day at work, and that her condition would cause her to miss more than three days of work each month.

The claimant’s application for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits was approved today without a hearing. It is somewhat unusual for a claimant with a “non-exertional” impairment to have an SSD application approved without a hearing. A non-exertional impairment is one that does not affect the person’s ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push, or pull.

A case involving a non-exertional impairment is more difficult to establish than an exertional impairment that affects a person’s strength, that is, the person’s ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push, or pull. Sometimes it may be necessary to obtain a vocational assessment to establish disability based upon a non-exertional impairment.

If you are unable to work due to a medical condition, even though you have no problem sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling, then you would be well advised to consult with an attorney experienced in handling disability matters.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ALJ Bias Overcome

Padro v. Astrue is the class action filed against Hazel C. Strauss, David Z. Nisnewitz, Michael D. Cofresi, Seymour Fier, and Marilyn P. Hoppenfeld, who are Social Security Administration Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) from Queens (the “Queens Five”). The Padro Amended Complaint, which can be downloaded from my web page’s Resources tab, alleges that the Queens Five are biased against claimants.

One of plaintiffs named in the Padro Amended Complaint is my client. She applied for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits in April 2006. ALJ Nisnewitz denied the application in July 2007, but the Appeals Council remanded the case back to him in February 2009. In September 2009, ALJ Nisnewitz denied the application again, and the Appeals Council refused to review the claim, so I appealed to federal court.

The federal district court judge, Dora Irizarry, rejected Nisnewitz’s decision for many of the reasons asserted against him in the Padro bias class action. In fact, Judge Irizarry complained about Nisnewitz’s “contentiousness,” and ordered that the case be heard by a different ALJ.
The claim that Nisnewitz denied twice was approved today by another ALJ - without a hearing. However, because of ALJ Nisnewitz’s bias, the claimant had to wait three times as long as it should have taken the claimant to get her past due benefits. In the interim, she received no interest, and the cost to the SSA was needlessly excessive, as ALJ Nisnewitz required extra hearings and experts. Nisnewitz’s actions were a waste of tax dollars.

Padro is in the process of being settled. The settlement should result in many claimants whose applications were denied by the Queens Five receiving new hearings. Please contact our office if you would like more information about the Padro ALJ bias class action.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Updating Medical Evidence

A State agency makes the initial decision whether or not to approve an application for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits. If the State agency denies the application, then the next step in New York is to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) at the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (“ODAR”).

After ODAR receives an appeal, it sends the claimant an introductory letter that discusses the procedures at the hearing level. One of the things that the introductory letter advises the claimant is that additional evidence should be provided. Typically, the letter will state, “Giving us evidence early can often help us review your case sooner.”

I represent a 48 year old truck driver whose SSD application was denied by the State agency, and I requested a hearing on July 23, 2012. On August 25, 2012, I submitted a new report from the claimant’s orthopedist, which contained information similar to a report that I had previously submitted from the orthopedist. A week later, a decision was made to approve the claim.

It is possible that the claimant’s SSD application eventually would have been approved even if the second report from the orthopedist had not been submitted. However, submitting the new report acted as a trigger for the claim file to be reviewed, which resulted in an approval without a hearing. Even if additional medical evidence appears cumulative, it should be provided to the ODAR.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Should I Take Early Retirement?

People who cannot work, who are approaching or have reached age 62, regularly contact me to ask if they should take early retirement from Social Security. If the medical reason why you cannot work is not life threatening, then it usually makes sense to avoid early retirement. However, rather than comparing the benefits of early versus normal Social Security retirement, you should consider the possibility of Social Security Disability (”SSD”) if a medical condition prevents you from working.

If you are found disabled, your SSD benefits should be paid at the higher "full retirement age" rate, instead of the discounted "early retirement" rate. I have found that when people pursue SSD and early retirement, the SSD application tends to be denied, which is why I usually advice against seeking the latter. Moreover, when both benefits are sought, the applications take much longer than usual to get processed.