Attmore v. Colvin: SSDI Appeals

In Attmore V. Colvin, a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a claimant applied for and was awarded benefits based upon her being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Bipolar disorder is a condition for which the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) will consider a claimant to be disabled within the meaning of the agency guidelines.

gavel211In this case, claimant worked last in April 2007.  She was no longer able to work and quit after she had several breakdowns that did not allow her to get out of bed and go to work.  The following year she was in the hospital on three occasions because of her bipolar disorder.  In one of these cases, she allegedly tried to commit suicide and was in the hospital for around two weeks. 

After she was released following her suicide attempt, she said she was doing better at first, but then started to hallucinate. She then lowered her dose of medication on her own and eventually stopped taking her medication entirely. This is actually fairly common for a variety of reasons. These medications are very powerful and have very powerful side effects.  In some cases, people on the medications feel better mental and are still experiencing very bad side effects. Many believe they will be okay if they stop taking the drugs, but often does not result in a positive outcome.

As a result of stopping her medications, she began to become more paranoid and was admitted to the hospital after she was responding to the voices in her own head.  She was in the hospital for around a month and then began seeing her old doctor on a regular basis and this helped somewhat.

She was still on benefits at this time, but continued to improve. As our Boston disability attorneys can explain, when someone is receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, the agency will require a review at various points in the future to determine of a person is still disabled.  In some cases, such as one suffers a catastrophic physical injury, there is virtually no chance of a significant improvement, but in the case of mental conditions, there is a possibility that medication will work.

In this case, the administrative law judge (ALJ) conducted a review hearing and determined that claimant’s social functioning had improved to the point where she was no longer disabled and determined that she was no longer entitled to benefits.

She appealed the denial of benefits, and this appeal involved what are known as closed period cases.  The court concluded that ALJ did not have sufficient evidence to make such a determination that her condition had improved and reversed the denial of benefits.  One of the reasons that he did not have sufficient evidence was that there was no evidence as to improvement in the totality of her condition.  The ALJ chose to focus on individual aspects of her condition such as social functioning, but this was only one aspect of her condition and does not mean that she was able to return to work.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Attmore v. Colvin, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, June 29, 2016

More Blog Entries:

Stacy v. Colvin: SSDI Appeals, June 25, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog

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