In Today’s Social Security Disability World, Advocacy Matters

November 4, 2014

At a recent hearing my client mixed up the date of his hearing with his doctor appointment and forgot to show up to his hearing.

While waiting to speak with the judge on behalf of our client, the medical expert designated to testify in the hearing made an, “I know why he isn’t here,” comment and insinuated our client was absent because of alcohol use.

This client suffered from a very complex chronic pancreatitis case, and SSA is biased to assume pancreatitis almost always stems from drinking. The judge proceeded to take testimony from the medical expert, which consisted of calling our client a closet alcoholic despite no objective medical evidence of alcohol abuse – let alone use – based solely off his “experience testifying and reviewing thousands of cases for SSA.”

This doctor was not a gastroenterologist with experience treating complex pancreatitis cases, but rather an internist with a secondary specialization in pulmonary medicine. We objected to the testimony of the doctor, and rigorously defended our client’s rights that day knowing we had to protect him for future hearings now that the “alcoholic” seed had been planted.

We were successful in getting a new hearing for our client, but unfortunately, the judge scheduled the same doctor to testify again in the supplemental hearing. Knowing this would hurt our client’s case, we strongly objected to the expert testifying on the grounds of his inappropriate gesture, as well as his baseless testimony.

We made it clear allowing such biased testimony was clearly an appealable issue right off the bat, and requested a gastroenterologist be present to testify given the nature of the client’s impairments. Not only did the judge grant our request and kick off the biased expert, but he scheduled a new hearing specifically scheduling a doctor in the very area of expertise we requested.

Had we not zealously defended our client’s right to a fair hearing, the judge could have denied him for simply missing his hearing, or the judge could have denied him wrongly by thinking the client’s excruciating abdominal pain was due to alcohol abuse.

Finally, we were able to get our client a fair hearing with an unbiased and experienced doctor in the gastroenterology. In this hearing, we were able to get a fully favorable decision from the client’s alleged onset date in 2010. The new doctor testified that not only was alcohol use not a material cause of the claimant’s pain, but in fact, the record didn’t even support a finding that the claimant was even a drinker.

For our client, the difference between being denied benefits and receiving over three years in back due benefits was our knowledge, expertise, fight and our belief that our client deserved a fair hearing – not based on a biased doctor speculating about someone’s impairments, and in turn their future.

We’re proud to fight for each and every one of our clients. If you can’t work and need help with Social Security Disability, contact us today.