In Igo v. Colvin, a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, claimant appealed the United States Social Security Administration’s (SSA) denial of his application for disability benefits.
Claimant filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits because he had been suffering from painful osteoarthritis in his hip, as well as degenerative disorder of this hips, chronic shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and various other musculoskeletal disorders.
When he first filed his application, it was denied. This does not mean you should give up trying and should not apply for consideration, as the vast majority of applications are denied at this stage in the process without regard to whether the claimant is actually disabled. While this may seem like an unfair result, and it is, as our Boston disability attorneys have seen in far too many cases, this is basically used as a means fore the agency to save money in their ever-insufficient budget by paying out less in claims.
After being denied, the next step is to apply for reconsideration, but you can expect that this application will also be rejected, as a very small percentage of applications that were initially denied are approved at this stage in the process. Eventually, you will be granted a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), and that is what happened in Igo.
In this case, the ALJ also denied claimant’s request for reconsideration and affirmed the denial of benefits. In denying claimant’s request for disability benefits, ALJ used the five-factor test that is governed by SSA regulations and prior case opinions in jurisdictions across the United States.
The first part of the test looks at whether the claimant has a sufficient work history. This is necessary, because a person must have engaged in substantial gainful activity (earned money) for long enough that not being able to do so any more makes them disabled under the meaning of the statute. If they have not worked in the past, they are not disabled, but may be eligible for what is known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) depending on the facts of the case and the family income. In this case, ALJ determined that he had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his claimed date of disability but had done so in the past.
The second part of the test looks at whether the conditions or combination of conditions were severe enough to prevent him from engaging in substantial gainful activity. In this case, ALJ found these conditions were severe with respect to the physical aliments, but the mental conditions were “nonsevere.”
The third step in the process is whether his severe impairments are also “listed impairments” based on the SSA’s archaic regulatory scheme. The ALJ found that his impairments were not listed impairments, but he did not explain this in his denial order. The next step was an assessment of claimant’s ability to work or residual functioning capacity (RFC). He found could work and therefore he did not reach the final step of this test. On appeal, the court affirmed ALJ’s denial, because it was largely supported by evidence.
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.
Igo v. Colvin, October 14, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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