Cole v. Colvin: SSDI Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are not always easy to come by.

In Cole v. Colvin, as case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, claimant worked as a welder in 2000 when he was injured in an accident.  The accident resulted in him breaking his left arm and his wrist.  As a result of these injuries, claimant was required to have a metal plate and steel screws implanted in his arm.

1033916_medical_instruments_3Claimant had been in pain for eight years following the accident, and despite a lot of medical treatment, the pain would not go away.  He still worked following the accident and was a factory foreman at the time he had a second serious accident.

In his second accident, he fell off a ladder.  When this fall occurred, he landed on his elbow and this resulted in him suffering severe pain in his arm and two fingers. He went to physical and occupational therapy for his new injuries; however, as was the case with his injuries from years earlier, he was left with chronic pain.

Following his unsuccessful attempts at therapy, he was referred to a specialist who diagnosed him with cubital tunnel syndrome.  This condition involves a compression of nerves, as is the case with carpal tunnel syndrome, a typical basis for a Boston disability case.  However, with cubital tunnel syndrome, it is the nerves running down the arm from the elbow known as the ulnar nerve.  This nerve is responsible for the muscles in the forearm and hand and terminates at the other end in what people colloquially call the funny bone. Most people are aware of the feeling when one hits his or her funny bone, and this condition leaves a claimant with that feeling all or most of the time.

To treat his condition, an orthopedic surgeon performed a procedure where he moved the nerve bundle to a position where it was not being compressed.  Unfortunately, the surgery did not work, and the pain was worse that it was before.  Additionally, he now experienced a popping in his arm whenever it was extended that was painful and audible. At this point, he went to another surgeon who diagnosed him with a condition known as posterolateral rotary instability.  This means that his elbow was essentially loose and would slide in and out of the joint when his arm moved.   He had another surgery to correct this problem, which required the grafting of ligament from his arm to elbow similar to what baseball pitchers have to treat Tommy Johns.  While he was in pain all the the time, his doctor said it would get better over time.  He was in pain all the time and applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

He was out of work and could not find another job given his limitations.  He applied for disability benefits, and his application was denied.

He was granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), and the ALJ denied his claim for benefits.  The ALJ indicated that once claimant’s workers’ compensation ran out, he applied for SSDI benefits and was malingering (exaggeration) his pain.  The appellate court reversed, stating the ALJ simply “cherry-picked” the record to support his 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 (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Cole v. Colvin, July 26, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Who is Getting the Most from Social Security Disability? July 2, 2016, Boston SSDI Lawyer Blog

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