Five Times is the Charm

By Douglas I. Friedman of Friedman Law Firm, P.C.

We recently persuaded Social Security to award disability benefits to a woman who suffered from Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Restless Leg Syndrome.

Her application had been denied, so she appealed and requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. We ended up having five hearings in this case. This is what happened.

The first time the judge abruptly ended the hearing and said that he wanted to call a medical expert to testify. The second time the judge abruptly ended the hearing and said that there was not enough time to finish taking testimony from the medical expert. The third time we finished, but in spite of favorable testimony from the medical expert, and strongly favorable opinions from the treating physicians, the judge denied the appeal.

During these hearings the judge offered a closed period of benefits – – meaning that he agreed that our client was disabled, but that her disability had ended and was not ongoing. The client refused the offer because she was still suffering from an ongoing disability. Instead of issuing a partially favorable decision for the closed period the judge denied the whole case.

We appealed to the Appeals Council. The AC has a large backlog, and it took about two years for the case to be considered. But, the AC agreed that the judge was wrong, and remanded the case for further proceedings – – unfortunately, still before the same judge.

So, we asked the judge to recuse himself and let another judge decide the case. This request was denied, but during the fourth hearing, the judge granted this request. The case was assigned to another judge.

We returned to the hearing office for the fifth time. A medical expert and a vocational expert were present to testify. The medical expert testified that in his opinion the client’s medical condition equaled a Listed Impairment. This meant that the client’s medical condition was severe enough so that she should be found disabled on medical considerations alone, without regard to vocational factors such as her age, education and work history. Thankfully, the judge agreed and the case was awarded.

This client is an excellent example of how important it is to keep appealing your case, and not giving up. By doing so the client is expected to receive about four years of past-due benefits – – benefits that would not be paid to her if she gave up, or if she had accepted the judge’s offer of a closed period.

If you have any questions about Social Security hearings, or if you would like help in the appeals process feel free to contact us.