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Pennsylvania Worker With Osteoarthritis Gets a Second Chance to Pursue Disability Benefits

If you have a medical condition that has left you unable to work, you may need the assistance of disability benefits. Receiving an award of benefits can greatly enhance the quality of life of the recipient. However, the legal processes of your claim for disability benefits can seem daunting. Giving yourself a strong chance of success often means having a detailed understanding of the law, as well as of the procedures and processes that go into putting together a winning case. Your disability claim is far too important to entrust to anyone other than an experienced Pennsylvania Social Security Disability attorney who knows how to give you a good chance to get the benefits you need.

Andrea was a woman from western Pennsylvania facing such a need for disability benefits. In her case, she was seeking an award of disability benefits due to her osteoarthritis in her knees, along with her back and shoulder pain. As part of the process, Andrea underwent a consultative exam in February 2014. That doctor concluded, at the end of his examination, that Andrea could “occasionally lift up to 20 pounds and carry up to 10; sit for two hours at a time and for three total; stand for 15 minutes at a time and for one hour total; walk for 15-20 minutes at a time and for one hour total.”

In reaching her conclusion, the administrative law judge in Andrea’s case relied upon part of the doctor’s opinions but discounted other opinions expressed by that doctor. The ALJ did not explain in her opinion why she accepted the conclusions she accepted and rejected the ones she rejected. Andrea was able to use this lack of explanation to secure a remand of her case after the ruling was an unfavorable one.

Another thing that helped was the ALJ’s treatment of the opinion of the “single decision maker” (SDM) in Andrea’s case. An SDM is a Social Security technician who examines the applicant and makes conclusions about the applicant’s ability to work. One of the analyses in a disability case is called a residual functional capacity or RFC evaluation. An RFC may be completed by your doctor or by an SDM. Several court cases in the past have ruled that a single decision maker’s RFC should carry no evidentiary weight. The ALJ in Andrea’s case indicated that she gave some weight to the RFC completed by Andrea’s SDM. This was another area that helped Andrea get a remand of her case.

Andrea’s case and the court’s ruling probably look like a lot of jargon and “alphabet soup” with SDMs, ALJs, and RFCs. These technical terms and acronyms may seem very intimidating. What you can definitely take away from this is that there are many technical and sometimes minute details that can make or break your disability case. Make sure you have the experienced representation your case needs. The Pennsylvania injury attorneys at Needle Law Firm have been providing reliable and effective representation to our disability clients for many years.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling 570-344-1266.

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