Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Subpoena Leads to SSD Award for Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) recognizes that rheumatoid arthritis can be a crippling disease, as an afflicted claimant can be found presumptively disabled under listing 14.09 if the criteria are met. If a listing is not met, then a hearing is typically required.

I represent a 48 year old former dental hygienist who was scheduled for a hearing after an on-the-record (“OTR”) was denied. The typical wait for a hearing is many months, and can even be over a year. One should never be satisfied with simply waiting for the arrival of the hearing date.

I seek updated medical records and reports for most Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”) if an OTR is denied. For those ALJs who are well known for taking excessive amounts of time before scheduling a hearing, it makes no sense to request updated records after an OTR denial because by the time the hearing arrives they will claim that the medical records are stale, and need to be updated again.

The dental hygienist had to go live in a nursing home because of her rheumatoid arthritis. After an OTR was rejected, I sought updated medical records from the nursing home. However, the nursing home refused to provide any records. Fortunately, the ALJ granted my request to subpoena the nursing home records, which totaled nearly 700 pages of objective clinical findings and diagnostic tests that support the functional less than sedentary functional assessments of the treating doctors that had been submitted previously.

Among other things, the nursing home records showed that since the claimant had been admitted, via stretcher, she had needed a wheelchair to get around, even needed assistance to use it, could not get in and out of bed without help, was incontinent, totally dependent on others for personal hygiene, including toileting, and could not even feed herself. Based on those records, I suggested that a hearing was not needed. The ALJ agreed.

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