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Scrogham v. Colvin – Multiple Ailments in SSDI Case

Unless an applicant seeking Social Security disability insurance benefits has a listed condition with severity that is recognized by the administration, he or she can expect to fight in order to secure benefits. This does not mean one is ineligible. It just means the determination is sometimes subjective, and the help of an experienced SSDI attorney in Boston can make all the difference.
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What we know for sure is that in some cases, a person may suffer from a multitude of ailments that, individually, would not meet the high bar of proof necessary to show benefits should be awarded. However, when those conditions are taken in concert, they result in the person being disabled. Effective communication in these situations is key.

A good example recently came in Scrogham v. Colvin, which was reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Here, claimant was a 53-year-old high school-educated auto sales manager who had been consistently employed from 1993 through 2007. During part of that time, he took on a second job at a restaurant, making pizzas and taking on some supervisory work, such as scheduling.

However, he was forced to stop, he would later testify, because of overwhelming leg and back pain, as well as a variety of other health problems. In his request for benefits, he submitted evidence of extensive treatment by both primary care physicians and specialists. He also underwent numerous exams by the administration’s doctors after filing his request.

Among the conditions from which he suffered: Degenerative discs, spinal stenosis, hypertension, arthritis, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and atrial fibrillation.

Claimant’s request was denied, first by an administrator and later by an administrative law judge. The latter gave less weight to the man’s treating physicians, and indicated he did not find the claimant to be a credible witness.

Upon appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, plaintiff argued the administrative law judge had inappropriately undervalued the opinions of his doctors, whose long-term care of him should have been a substantial factor in the final decision. These physicians felt the man’s condition was severe enough to determine total disability. Additionally, claimant argued the court failed to take into account the progressive nature of several of his conditions – primarily, the degenerative disc disease and his arthritis.

The appellate court concurred, reversing the ALJ’s ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings. In its opinion, the appellate panel indicated the ALJ either misunderstood some of the evidence, or only partially considered some of it, particularly with regard to the claimants’ daily activities, his extensive rehabilitative efforts and his doctors’ evaluations.

Again, while any one of these conditions on their own might not be enough to warrant disability benefits, a different outcome emerges when they are considered collectively.

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:
Scrogham v. Colvin, Aug. 27, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
More Blog Entries:
Toland v. Colvin: Medical Testimony at SSDI Hearings, Aug. 24, 2014, Boston Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog