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Whitehead v. Colvin: Disability Benefits Appeals

Whitehead v. Colvin, a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, involved a claimant who was suffering what he described as severe neck pain.  His neck pain began while he was working as an operator of heavy equipment, and he hit his head while on the job.

952313_gavelAfter his slip and fall accident, he went to a doctor for immediate medical attention and told his doctor that it was his plan to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

There are essentially three ways for a person who has been working, and then becomes disabled, to qualify for disability benefits. The best way would be for the employee to have private long-term disability benefits insurance.  This is typically provided by an employer at some workplaces depending on the benefits package, or a worker can purchase his or her own long-term disability insurance benefits plan either through his or her employer or directly from an insurance provider.  It should be noted that there are many benefits to a private insurance plan, and it is much easier to qualify for benefits, but the reality is that most workers in America do not have this type of insurance and are left with one of the other two options.

If a worker is hurt on the job, the worker will typically file for workers’ compensation benefits directly with his or her employer, as that is the primary recovery option in most cases.  If a person is disabled and cannot work, but that disability is not the result of a workplace injury or work-related illness, the injured worker will typically file a claim for SSDI benefits with the United States Social Security Administration (SSA).  If you are disabled and living in the greater Boston area, you should speak with an experienced disability benefits attorney as soon as possible to see if you have a valid claim for SSDI benefits.

In Whitehead, the opinion did not say why he applied for SSDI benefits with the SSA as opposed to workers’ compensation benefits, but it is quite possible that he was hired as an independent contractor and did not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

Regardless of the reason for applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, his application was quickly denied.  The reason for his denial was the agency determined he did not suffer from a single condition or set of conditions that qualified him for disability benefits.  Being denied initially is fairly common, but he was eventually able to have a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).  The ALJ agreed that his residual functioning capacity him (RFC) was too high to qualify as a disabled claimant.

He appealed to the United States District and that court affirmed ALJ’s ruling that claimant could perform light work as long as certain limitations were imposed.  They also agreed there were jobs in the local or national economy that allowed him to work under these conditions.  He then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and this court also affirmed ALJ’s denial of benefits.

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:

Whitehead v. Colvin, April 28, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Dimmett v. Colvin: SSDI Appeals, April 5, 2016, Boston SSDI attorney