August 19, 2019

Social Security Judge Reveals What Evidence You Need to Win a Disability Approval

Strategy for Winning Claims Arising from Long Term HIV Infection


Social Security disability claimants seeking SSDI or SSI benefits based on a long term HIV infection can be approved if they present evidence of complications that will preclude competitive work.   Remember that Social Security defines disability in terms of how your impairment would likely impair your capacity to perform the demands of minimally demanding work.

SSA’s treatment of HIV claims has changed significantly over the past 15 years.  In the 1990s and early 2000’s, most judges felt that HIV was a precursor to AIDS and generally treated HIV infections and AIDS as one in the same.   These cases were usually approved fairly quickly.

About 10 years ago, judge took notice of advances in medical science that allowed people infected with HIV to suppress
the virus and lead apparently normal lives.  HIV was then treated similar to Hepatitis – an active, un-curable condition but one that need not prevent a claimant from working for years at a time.

AIDS, by contrast, was usually approved based on Listing 14.08.

Over the last 4 to 5 years, however, Social Security judges have become more open to the idea that HIV often does
create complications that, when considered as a whole, can prevent an afflicted person from working.  Complications that seem to resonate most with judges include:

  • chronic infections
  • non-healing fissures in the body
  • boils
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • pain
  • depression

In my practice I have had success representing claimants with HIV who exhibit these symptoms and medication side effects
and who have support from a treating physician.

You can find more information about strategies I use in HIV claims as well as many other types of impairments on my law firm web site.

Knee Pain and Social Security Disability

Knee damage cases can be winners in Social Security hearings but only if the degree of damage is severe and all non-surgical treatment has failed.

In this video I talk about the type of diagnosis you will need to have and why a diagnosis calling for a single or bilateral knee replacement is usually necessary.

Failed Back Syndrome Social Security Disability Claims

In this video I talk about failed back syndrome, which describes a medical condition where you are no longer a surgical candidate and your only treatment option is long term pain management.


How to Win Your Back Pain Case in a Social Security Disability Hearing

Social Security judges see more back pain cases than any other impairment. Because of this, you need to do whatever you can to make your case stand out. If you come to your hearing with vague complaints that your lower back “hurts all the time,” that you “can’t lift very much” and that you “can’t sit very long” you are going to lose. Judges expect to see MRI or CT scan reports, support from a treating doctor, on-going treatment records, and specific testimony from you about what you can and cannot do.

In this video I discuss how I approach back pain cases and some specific steps you can take to improve your chances at winning.

How to Argue for Disability When Your Medical Condition Produces Good Days and Bad Days

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I received the following condition from a young lady named Sarah, who is living with a blood disorder called Diamond Blackfan Anemia.  This condition requires blood transfusions about every three weeks and results in good days and bad days over the course of a month.

She writes:  I have Diamond Blackfan Anemia, which is a bone marrow failure condition that requires chronic blood transfusions as my blood levels continue to drop each day.  Additionally I am on many medications for other complications from this condition.  I am 30 years old and have always worked, but it is now getting to the point where I can no longer do so.  My doctors have recommended I apply for SSDI and not work anymore.  My boss has cut my hours and I begin the process soon.

I am concerned about the kinds of questions I will be asked: “How far can you walk?” “How long can you sit?”, etc.  The truth is, right after I have a transfusion, it’s not a problem at all.  I am even able to exercise during those days.  But I get transfusions every three weeks.  In the 10 days or so before a blood transfusion, I can’t do much of anything.  I miss work frequently due to fatigue.  The transfusions themselves take a day or two to recover.  My question is, how do I answer these questions without hurting my chances of getting on disability?

I think that this question is relevant to any number of conditions that produced “good days” and “bad days.”  I think that the best strategy is to discuss the limitations that arise from your condition as they would affect your performance of work functions over the course of a month.   For example, in this case, Sarah might say “my condition requires me to obtain a blood transfusion approximately every 3 weeks.  Immediately after the transfusion I feel fairly good and I have sufficient energy to perform my job duties.  But by the end of the 2nd week after my transfusion, my energy level drops dramatically, I become extremely fatigued and I have a difficult time concentrating or getting through a workday without taking numerous unscheduled breaks.

In this particular case, Sarah should also reference Listing 7.02, which provides that a person who requires a blood transfusion once every 2 months or more often would qualify for disability on the medical record alone.

Episode 23 – What is Best Strategy for Claimant With Multiple Medical Problems

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I received the following email from a gentleman named Richard who graciously agreed to permit me to respond to his questions on this blog/podcast.

You have, what I believe to be be, the most informative, no BS, Attorney site I have seen in my 3 mo quest for information…enough of the “smoke up the….”….

I have MRI, X-ray, and medical records that show back problems. I have been seeing a liver specialist. for over a year due to liver disease (he has yet to find source), I have shingles pain flares, and migraine headaches. Depression dating back several years. I have SEVERE diarrhea, that leads to incontinence, and I take 9 diff. medications a day.

All this caused me to leave my career in law enforcement 2 years ago. To top it off, I attempted suicide 02/08…About 3 mos ago, I filed for SSD. My question is this….I have kept a “pain Journal” that I show my pain management doctor, for the last 6 mos. It shows how I feel on any given day, and what i can and can’t do, in my own
words. Some days are good, some days are horrible. Should I send that to DDS?


Podcast notes and resources:

1. Social Security listings – the fastest way to win a disability case is to show that your condition meets a listing.

2. Functional capacity argument – identify specific problems that impact your work capacity

3. Mental health vs. physical medical problems – which makes for a stronger case?

4. Pain journals – when are they useful?

Episode 19 – The Importance of Past Work, and Hearing Records on CD

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Episode Notes:  Link to grid rules

I have always believed that work history helps establish credibility.  Yesterday our judge said as much and approved a case with consistent, but not overwhelming medical records.

Episode 6

Episode 6 – Show Notes

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Question 1: After my wife received Short Term Disability for 5 months, I called my wife’s plan administrator to get an update today. They told me her claim was denied as of 2 weeks ago. Had I not called we would not have known. She is unable to work due to seizures and depression. Her MD agrees. What recourse do we have?

Question 2: Mostly, I’d like to know if I could file a Disability Claim, with current prostate trouble? Also have Acute Arthritis in left and right hands, also have Hernia condition, and severe Stomach Ulcer problems as well. Just what can I file for? One of these or just a couple or all of the above? My prostate problems are bad enough to keep me from working at a regular rate of man hrs., due to frequent urinations, and cramping while in some positions, as well as Hernia Condition, that was deemed inoperable, due to severe cholesterol levels. Which also prevents me from working at any length, of endurance.

Episode 4

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In this episode, I answer two more questions:

1. Kate writes to ask how she can terminate her lawyer, who she says is not doing his job.

2. Kenneth writes to say that he has a significant heart problem and his current cardiologist supports him but the previous cardiologist has the attitude “if he can walk, he is not disabled.” Kenneth wonders if the first cardiologist’s attitude is going to doom his case.