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Compassionate ALJ = Fully Favorable Decision

March 21, 2011

Author: Louise M. Tarantino| Catherine M. Callery (Kate)

Disability advocates know that handling claims based on psychiatric impairments are most difficult cases: evidence is sometimes inconclusive, Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) are often skeptical, and the clients are always unpredictable.  Despite these hurdles, persistent advocates prevail in many cases.

Carolyn McQuade of Nassau Suffolk Law Services represented such a client recently who exhibited serious symptoms of depression.  Luckily, the medical evidence documented a long history of mental illness, including major depression with suicide attempts, anxiety disorder and panic disorder. As is often the case with these clients, there was also a history of alcohol abuse.  But the client repeatedly minimized the symptoms of depression, going so far as testifying that she could no longer work because she got “bored.”

Carolyn and her client were fortunate to have a compassionate ALJ in Andrew Weiss of the Jericho ODAR.  The ALJ found that the evidence supported a finding that the claimant suffered from serious mental impairments that affected her ability to maintain social function and maintain concentration, persistence or pace.  In making his decision, the ALJ accepted evidence from a psychiatric nurse practitioner, citing Social Security Ruling (SSR) 06-3p, as well as a treating psychologist.  The ALJ rejected evidence from a state agency physician because it was inconsistent with other medical evidence in the record. Lastly, the ALJ found the alcohol abuse was not a contributing factor material to a finding of disability. The ALJ recommended appointment of a representative payee.

Although Carolyn’s client was awarded benefits in spite of herself, the favorable decision was due in large part to sound medical evidence from several sources that supported a finding of a disabling impairment.  Congratulations to Carolyn for pulling that together and presenting a sympathetic and realistic picture of her client at the hearing.

 





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