DeLong v. Comm’r of Social Sec. – Entitlement to SSDI Benefits Must Be “Strongly Established”

Anyone who thinks that obtaining Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is a cakewalk (i.e., numerous political pundits) has obviously never had to endure the process.
Even for those with clear impairment, a benefits awared can take years, and is often complicated by several denials before claimants win final approval.

Our Boston SSDI lawyers mention this not to discourage claimants from filing, but to encourage them to be fully prepared. A big part of that involves making sure the chosen legal firm has a wealth of experience in successfully guiding clients through the process.

At Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers, we understand that the courts want to see applicants present heaps of information to support their claim.

Failure to do this will most assuredly result in claim rejection, as the recent case of DeLong v. Comm’r of Social Sec. illustrates. Here, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the ruling of several lower courts in finding that the plaintiff had failed to strongly establish entitlement to SSDI benefits.

According to court records, the claimant filed her petition for benefits back in 2003. She was denied. In all, she ended up attending three alternative law judge hearings, and at each, a determination was made that she was not disabled for the purposes of collecting federal disability benefits.

While the specifics of the disability claim aren’t spelled out in the appellate court documents, we know that the court gave greater weight to the opinions of two treating physicians who tended to discredit her claim, while rejecting the opinions of two others who tended to support her claim.

The claimant argued that the administrative law judge had erred in doing so. A district court that had previously reviewed the case agreed, vacated the ruling and remanded the case, finding that the ALJ had not given “good reason” for weighting certain claims over others.

However, that finding was later reversed upon appeal, with the appellate court ruling that such decisions were within the ALJ’s discretion. Further, the court found that the ALJ hadn’t mischaracterized the underlying medical evidence, and the lay opinion evidence hadn’t been skewed. In other words, even if the ALJ had improperly granted weight to the determination of some doctors over others, the rest of the evidence still failed to support her claim for benefits.

The court also reprimanded the claimant for presenting evidence to the appellate court that she hadn’t previously showed to the ALJ.

Additionally, because the earlier reversal was on procedural and not substantive grounds, the Sixth Circuit denied her claim for recovery of attorneys’ fees.

This case might make the whole process sound discouraging. And the truth is, if you don’t have a strong case, it can be. This is why our attorneys will work closely with you at the outset of your claim to determine the odds of your success. If the case is forced to the appellate level, we will help you to meticulously evaluate the cost-benefit analysis of pressing forward.

Filing for SSDI benefits in Boston? Call for a free and confidential appointment at (617) 777-7777.

Additional Resources:
DeLong v. Comm’r of Social Sec., April 9, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
More Blog Entries:
The Disabled Need More Help- Not Benefit Cuts, March 10, 2014, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Lawyer Blog

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