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Higginbotham v. WSI: Disability Benefits and Vocational Specialists

Our Boston SSDI benefits lawyers understand that the decks are often stacked against the claimant who does not have an attorney on his side.

shoulder2.jpgIn Higginbotham v. WSI, an appeal heard in the North Dakota Supreme Court, the claimant was 70 years old and still employed as welder and pipefitter when he injured his left rotator cuff. His standard hourly wage was more than $34. His medical records indicated that his rotator cuff injury was work related.

According to court records, the claimant drove a significant distance to work sites before his injury. As a result of his injury, he could not longer make the trip to the job sites and could no longer work as a pipefitter or welder.

After having surgery on his rotator cuff, the claimant was referred to vocational rehabilitation with a consultant hired by the disability law judge. The consultant developed areport that recommended that the claimant return to the pool of eligible workers.

In other words, he was not disabled and should find a new job that he could physically do and could get with his GED from 1970. Jobs that were suggested were casino dealer, store greeter, cashier, and telephone sales representative. These jobs had an expected weekly income of approximately $330. This would be less than he earned in 10 hours of his welding job.

The claimant appealed this decision and, on appeal, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) affirmed the commission’s decision. The claimant appealed the ALJ’s decision. The appellate court agreed with the ALJ’s finding in large part because the claimant did not articulate any evidence that tended to support his position that he was disabled and entitled to receive benefits. He did not have any experts testify on his behalf or present any opinions before the commission.

This case highlights the need to consult an attorney who regularly handles Social Security Disability (SSDI) cases as soon as you are unable to return to work due to a disability. It is much more likely that you will achieve your desired outcome if you have an attorney working with you from the beginning of the process rather than trying to fix problems after they happen. While there is no guarantee that you will be entitled to benefits, having a lawyer on your side will go a long way.

The process is not set up in a way that is fair to the disabled claimants in need of services. Almost every application is initially denied by the administration. While the Social Security Administration (SSA) will never admit that this is their official policy, it certainly seems to be the case in practice.

In order to help you receive SSDI benefits, your attorney will be able to present evidence and have doctors and other experts testify on your behalf. If the ALJ only hears from those trying to deny your application for benefits, it will be much easier for the judge to claim your position was not supported by the evidence when he or she affirms the denial of your claim.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:


Higginbotham v. WSI
, July 17, 2014, North Dakota Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:

Young People with Disabilities Face Challenges Preparing for Work, July 14, 2014, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Lawyers Blog