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Harvey v. Colvin: Social Security Disability Cases

In Harvey v. Colvin, a case from the United Sates Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, claimant applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, and his application was rejected.  The federal agency responsible for running this and other disability programs is the United States Social Security Administration (SSA).

hospitalIn this case, claimant asserted that she suffered from various severe impairments, including a mood disorder, anxiety, lasting effects from a brain tumor that had been removed, various spinal conditions including scoliosis, and various other medical conditions.  However, the SSA found she was not disabled, because, while her medical conditions were in fact severe, they were not listed impairments.

As our Boston Social Security disability benefits attorneys can explain, while there are many conditions that are severe and will prevent a person for working in real life, the SSA does not look at the real world.  Instead, the agency likes to use a Directory of Occupational Titles (DOT) that was written in the 1970s and is now long outdated to determine if a claimant can work at various jobs in the national and local economy that existed decades ago, as well as an equally archaic listing of impairments that is not necessarily up to date with modern medicine.  For this reason, another agency such as the Veterans Administration (VA) or private doctors can opine someone is disabled because he or she can not work, but SSA will find that same person not disabled because they use a different definition than the medical community and other governmental agencies.

After her initial application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits was denied, as was her application for reconsideration, she was eventually granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), and that ALJ determined that, while she did have severe impairments, they were not listed impairments, so her application was again denied.

At this point, she filed for reconsideration with the Social Security Administration appeals committee.  This is a discretionary review at the agency level, and the committee often declines to review a case as they are allowed to do.  With little choice, she filed an appeal in the United States District Court, and that court affirmed the ALJ’s denial of benefits.  She then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.  Unless there is a significant constitutional issue, this is the court of last resort or final appeal, as the United States Supreme Court will rarely hear appeals of SSDI cases.

On appeal, the court looked at whether the ALJ had properly listened to the evidence before him and fashioned a remedy that was supported by adequate evidence.  In this case, the court of appeals concluded that ALJ’s denial was supported by sufficient evidence and affirmed the denial of benefits.  Depending on the circuit involved, it may be difficult to overturn an ALJ’s decision on appeal, so it is best to speak with an experienced disability benefits attorney prior to the ALJ hearing, so you will have better chance of getting the right evidence before the judge at the time when it matters most.

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:

Harvey v. Colvin, October 7, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Worker Taxed Thousands for Social Security Disability Benefits He Never Received, June 21, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog