The Good, Bad & Ugly
Over many years I have seen a lot of representatives ask questions about the numbers of jobs vocational experts (VEs) testify to under a set of limitations the ALJ accepts.
However, the latest dialogue among representatives has confirmed for me that those who depend on winning a case based on tearingapart a VE's testimony are, in the words of an ALJ I appeared before 10 years ago, trying to dance too many fairies on the head of a pin.
The fundamental issue is functionality, functionality, functionality.
A representative's job is to shut down the VE. That means you provide substantial evidence which renders the VE pointless and irrelevant. Since the ALJ is not qualified to make medical judgments, the doc's testimony through a residual functional capacity assessment reigns.
Shutting down the VE is accomplished by getting the treating physician to state that (1) his or her patient is not able to think and concentrate for at least 20% of the time due to pain, and/or a reduction of mental acuity due to the side effects of prescribed medications or depression - with a commensurate loss of productivity.; (2) If your client were placed in a work situation, then he or she would need to take frequent and unscheduled breaks lasting 10 minutes each time; (3) your client is unable to use his or her arms for frequent reaching; or he or she is not able to use his or her hands for grasping and/or fingering; your client would be absent from work as a result of his or her symptoms more than 3 times a month; (4) your client needs to take naps during the day to relieve pain and discomfort.
It's also critical to keep in mind that a patient/client would be looking for a job in a competitive, able-bodied marketplace.
If your ALJ is intellectually honest, then he or she will pay you based on the residual functional capacity assessment which is backed by the medical evidence.
If all of the above is accomplished, and the ALJ turns to the VE to answer a hypothetical patient who does not include all the clear limitations you have, then you're probably dealing with a hanging judge. In which case, you can't do much else than you've already done.
However, if you're with an intellectually honest judge, he or she will usually go through the motions of asking the VE hypothetical questions which will obviously elicit a response of "no jobs."
My point is that if your representative gets into a pissing match with the VE over how many jobs there are in the economy that a patient can do, then you need to take a very hard look at the merits of your case.
The third category of ALJs are those who are intellectually dishonest and deny everyone - in which case you'll have to take your case to the Appeals Council.
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Record 100 Dystonia Cases Won; No Losses
On December 12th, Frederick A. Johnson, President of Disability Income Associates for 23 years, won his one hundredth dystonia case. He has never lost a dystonia case. I gladly write you a check today for our fully favorable SSDI win.
He is expert advisor to the American Dystonia Society, providing immediate answers to questions about Social Security disability programs and procedures to its 500 plus members. The American Dystonia Society is dedicated to research as a non-profit organization, and established in 2009. http://dystonia.ning.com/main/authorization/signUp?
Johnson has spoken on 3 occasions at the National Spasmodic Torticollis Association, a cervical dystonia patient support organization headquartered in Fountain Valley, CA.
Since 1990, Johnson has represented over 1,000 patients who were not able to work because of the severity of their medical problems.
He is author of "How To Apply For & Win Social Security Disability Benefits," and created specialized proprietary residual functional capacity forms for every major condition. The forms integrate the symptoms Social Security looks for in making its awards with the most basic legal standards.
Johnson was a member of the medical corps in the Navy, working in the ICU, emergency room, recovery room, and surgical wards at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. Additionally, he was a medical worker in the private sector for 2 years.
Cervical dystonia, also called spasmodic torticollis, or torticollis, is the most common of the focal dystonias. In torticollis, the muscles in the neck which control the position of the head are affected, causing the head to involuntarily twist and turn to one side. In addition, the head may be pulled forward or backward. Though of different etiology, dystonia is treated in the same ways as Parkinson's. Neurologists, however, frequently misdiagnose the condition. A gene has recently been found for dystonia; however, there is strong evidence to show that it can be originated by trauma.
Dystonia can effect other body parts or the entire body. It can be constant or episodic and sporadic. It is usually treated with botox injections at 3 month intervals.
Four long years and NC didn't do anything quickly or easy, but you stayed the course, kept me informed and most important-were my champion. I never spoke to anyone at SSA because you were on the front line for me.
I am proof positive that you can win your benefits with a skilled professional by your side. Dystonians rejoice for Fred Johnson!
D.Brinkley Snead Ferry, NC
Thank you for the untiring support given to me in obtaining my Social Security Disability claim. I would not have been able to do all the hard work that you have put into this case. You will be greatly rewarded for the work you do for Disabled population. I will keep you always in my prayers. Again, thank you.!!!
Randallstown, MD 21132
I want to take this opportunity to personally thank you for successfully navigating us to a favorable decision with regard to my case. If one ever has any concern or doubt about hiring a representative over an attorney, I can assure them that this notion can be set to rest. You very capably guided me through a maze of obstacles designed to confuse and bewilder even the well educated.
Because Spasmodic Torticolllis is considered somewhat of a rare disorder and is not listed on the Department of Social Security's "listing of impairments:, it created a challenge, but it was one you were more than able to handle. Everything happened as you predicted with respect to the denials, but it was your expertise and perseverance that prevailed somewhere between the reconsideration denial and the hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, which was very unusual. You spared me the great anxiety and further depletion of my savings by cutting through the labyrinthine bureaucracy at the hearing level and winning benefits without have to go to a hearing. Needless to say, I am very pleased and would highly recommend you to anyone who may be considering you as their representative.
Not only were you always available to answer my questions and concerns on a professional level, but equally as important, was the way in which you took this case on personally. I really admired the way you actually fought for me. Your heart was in it and I could tell. You know the system so very well Fred, and people who attempt to take on this giant on their own are at a tremendous disadvantage from the beginning.
If your assistance will help level the playing field and helps them decide on the proper representation they truly need, then it is my honor and pleasure to be of service to you.
Thank you so much!
G. Beaubien, Jr.
I gladly write you a check today for our fully favorable SSDI win.
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