Obtaining supplemental security income (SSI) benefits is not as simple as merely filling out an application form, asserting that you have a disability, and then handing over certain information. The process involves very specific rules and very exacting requirements regarding the proof you need in order to obtain an award of benefits. Wherever you are in the process, if you are seeking SSI benefits, it is worth your while to retain the services of a knowledgeable Pennsylvania Social Security attorney.
An unfortunate example of how challenging the process can be was the case of Suzie. Suzie was a woman with multiple medical ailments who applied for SSI in 2012. In her claim, she asserted that she had been disabled for five years due to a collection of problems, including epilepsy, neck and shoulder injuries, partial loss of her right arm, a lower back problem, and COPD.
Suzie had a lawyer at first, when her case went before an administrative law judge (ALJ) and her claim was originally denied. After that, though, she decided to proceed onward through the legal system on her own. She appealed to the federal district court and was not successful. She then took her case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, but again, she did not achieve a successful result.
The Third Circuit concluded that the ALJ was within the discretionary bounds of his role when he decided to give more weight to the state agency’s doctor than he did to Suzie’s treating physician. In many cases, the amount of persuasiveness carried by a doctor’s testimony can be a substantial key to success. The appeals court concluded that the state’s doctor’s testimony was “based on a broader record than the treating physician’s,” and it appeared to be more consistent with the rest of the evidence in the case. The ALJ concluded that, on the other hand, Suzie’s doctor’s testimony contained elements that contradicted Suzie’s prior medical record. This harmed the doctor’s credibility in the ALJ’s eyes. These things all were permissible bases for crediting or discounting a medical expert’s testimony, according to the appeals court.
The unfortunate outcome for Suzie is a reminder of the profound importance of having experienced legal counsel throughout every step of your SSI claim process. Suzie attempted to argue her case to the District Judge and the Third Circuit on her own. A knowledgeable Social Security attorney might, for example, possibly have been able to explain to those courts why the treating physician’s opinions were not in contradiction with Suzie’s medical record, and also they might have been able to provide a valid explanation for statements that the ALJ identified as inconsistent with the rest of the evidence in the case. A proper explanation, phrased carefully by a seasoned advocate, might have been able to convince the court that the ALJ acted outside his discretion in turning down Suzie’s application for benefits.
To make sure that you are giving your SSI case everything it needs to have a strong chance of success, talk to the skilled Pennsylvania Social Security attorneys at Needle Law Firm. Our team has been providing reliable advice and determined advocacy to our clients for many years.
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (570) 344-1266.
More blog posts:
How Pennsylvania Residents Know if Their Condition is “Disabling Enough” for Social Security Purposes, Pennsylvania Accident Lawyer Blog, October 10, 2017
Pennsylvania Individuals Suffering from Multiple Sclerosis May Be Entitled to Social Security Benefits, Pennsylvania Accident Lawyer Blog, September 7, 2017
Photo Credit: George Hodan, [CC0 License], via PublicDomainPictures.net