Monday, November 19, 2012

Three Heads Are Better Than One

A former office manager asked me to represent her shortly before her Social Security Disability hearing.  Her application had been denied on the grounds that her condition was not severe enough to keep her from working.  In denying the application, the State agency conceded that the claimant was afflicted with severe anemia, arthritic knee, back, wrist, and elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, cardiovascular problem problems, and depression.

When I reviewed the claim file, I found that each of the claimant’s medical conditions was fully documented.  There was no dispute that the claimant suffered from any of the diagnoses.  The State agency merely resorted to its default position that the medical conditions were not severe enough to preclude work.  The State agency usually resorts to its default position where there are medical records without any opinion regarding the effect of the medical conditions upon the claimant’s ability to function.

The decision of the State agency was disturbing here because it had asked the claimant’s hematologist to describe the claimant’s functionality, and he stated that the claimant could not perform sedentary work.  The State agency examiner, who was not a doctor, named M. Jackson, stated that the claimant could do sedentary work.  However, M. Jackson blatantly lied, and represented that the hematologist’s “conclusions about the claimant’s limitations or restrictions [were not] significantly different from your findings.”  If that were true, then M. Jackson would have had to approve the application.

On appeal, I obtained reports from the claimant’s rheumatologist and pain management specialist.  Each of those physicians also concluded that the claimant lacked ability to perform the demands of sedentary work.  Since they say that two heads are better than one, it follows that three heads are even better.  I suspect that if the claimant had submitted the analytic medical opinions at the State agency level, then M. Jackson would have been unable to ignore all three treating opinions.

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