Monday, July 21, 2014

State Agency Waste and Delay

The State Agency makes the initial decision when you apply for Social Security Disability (“SSD”) benefits. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time, it is a clerk, not a doctor, who makes the decision for the State agency. As you can imagine, those clerks usually make the wrong decision. Even worse, sometimes the clerks go out of their way to avoid approving SSD applications. 

I represent a 49 year old pharmaceutical manager with depression. The State agency clerk named T. Cotman denied the application on the grounds that the claimant’s psychiatrist did not send treatment notes to substantiate her opinions about the claimant’s mental limitations. The psychologist had submitted a report that specifically identified the medical findings supporting her restrictions and limitations due to the claimant’s depression. However, Cotman purged that report from the claimant’s file. On appeal, a copy of the report, together with the Electronic Records Express receipt showing that the State agency received it on November 23, 2012 at 2:51 PM EST, was resubmitted. 

The psychologist’s report showed that the claimant met the listing for depression. Based solely upon that report, the claimant’s SSD application should have been approved. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) approved the claimant’s SSD application today based upon that report; as the psychologist refused to produce the treatment records on confidentiality grounds. The ALJ did have a Social Security psychologist review the report, who opined it showed the claimant met the listing. 

If Cotman had asked a Social Security psychologist to review the report, instead of purging it from the file, then the claimant’s application would have been approved more than a year earlier. Moreover, it would have prevented the hearing office and ALJ from having to expend their time and resources to do precisely what the State agency was obligated to do.

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