In order to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, a person must be unable to work for at least one year due to a physical or mental impairment (or combination thereof). In Thompson v. Astrue, the District Court for the Western District of Arkansas once again reminded Social Security that the explains that the ALJ hearing a benefits claim must evaluate any impairment, that has more than a minimal effect on a claimant's ability to work the definition of what Social Security calls a "severe" impairment).
Plaintiff Gloria Thompson filed a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits, asserting that she's unable to work due to bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, seizures and allergies. The Social Security Administration (SSA) initially denied the claim and again on reconsideration.
Plaintiff then appeared at a hearing before an SSA Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) at which she was represented by an attorney. The ALJ found that although Plaintiff suffered from a variety of severe impairments, she retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to "perform work in which interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed, complexity of tasks is learned and perform by rote, with few variables and little judgment, and the supervision required is simple, direct and concrete." Plaintiff could no longer perform previous jobs, but could perform other jobs available in significant numbers in the national economy including maid and assembly worker, according to the ALJ. As a result, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled for benefits purposes.
On appeal, the District Court reversed the ALJ's decision, finding that the judge failed to take various skin conditions into account in considering Plaintiff's impairments and ability to work. "The record is replete with references to Plaintiff's continual complaints of skin rashes, eczema, and hives," the court noted, adding that Plaintiff's medical history showed that she suffered from "severe allergies resulting in multiple hospital visits and treatment with steroid shots, topical and oral steroids and antibiotics, which provided minimal relief."
The court further ruled that, while Plaintiff's skin conditions may not in and of themselves be disabling, the history of Plaintiff's treatment for these conditions indicates that they may have "more than a minimal effect" on her ability to work. thus they to would be considered "severe" and must be evaluated by the ALJ. Since the ALJ did not discuss the skin conditions in deciding on the claim, the court was unable to discern whether the ALJ considered the conditions' effect on Plaintiff's RFC. As a result, the court reversed the ALJ's decision and remanded the case for further record development.
In order to obtain either form of Social Security disability benefits, an individual must file a claim with the SSA and, in many cases, appear at a hearing. An experienced Social Security disability attorney can assist a claimant by filing the claim - including the documentation and other evidence necessary to prove it - on the claimant's behalf, following up with the SSA to ensure that it has all of the information and documentation it needs to decide on the claim and representing the claimant at administrative hearing or on federal appeal, if necessary.
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