Thursday, October 18, 2012

Firefighter Awarded SSD

I represent a 51 year old firefighter with pulmonary problems whose Social Security Disability (“SSD”) application was approved today. I had submitted the medical report from the New York City Medical Board that concluded the claimant was disabled from working as a firefighter. While not binding, the decision of another agency must be considered and given weight under the Social Security rules. 

The Fire Department is obviously better equipped to determine if a firefighter is fit for duty, and its disability determination decision is usually accepted by Social Security Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”). However, firefighters also have to prove that they cannot perform other work to receive SSD benefits. That is why it may be advisable to submit not only the Fire Department notice approving disability retirement, but also the Medical Board report discussing the medical reasons that support the disability retirement. 

 In this case, the ALJ cited the Medical Board as evidence supporting the firefighter’s entitlement to SSD benefits. As the claimant was over 50 years of age, based on the applicable medical-vocational rule, the firefighter only needed to show that he could not perform light work, which is more strenuous than sedentary work, to receive SSD benefits. 

The treating pulmonologist concluded that the claimant lacked even a sedentary work capacity. The ALJ accepted the opinion of the treating pulmonologist in large part because it was consistent with the findings of the Fire Department Medical Board. There are circumstances where a City Medical Board report could serve as the basis for an ALJ to deny SSD benefits, so consult an attorney before doing so.

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