Today, we won SSI benefits for another deserving client at her hearing. It was a strong case but, like many, the evidence of disability was stronger later on during her claim period. Additionally, she is 55 years old, implicating Social Security's Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the "grids"). When I reviewed her file prior to hearing, I anticipated the issue of an amended onset date of disability. Very often, when a claimant turns 50 or 55 during his or her claim period, SSA will recommend amending the alleged onset date to the relevant birthday. Although this often results in a favorable decision, it also results in a cut (sometimes drastic) in past-due benefits.
When reviewing my clent's file, I discovered that she had a stroke ten months before her fifty-fifth birthday. In my opening statement to the judge, I cited the date of the stroke as an appropriate onset date of disability. In support of the motion, I cited numerous medical records in the file that demonstrated weakness of her dominant right hand. At the close of the hearing, the ALJ remarked that he was originally going to approve the case as of our client's fifty-fifth birthday, but that he was convinced by our argument and would go with the earlier onset date. The result? Ten extra months of SSI benefits, totaling $7,710.
Many Social Security lawyers simply acquiesce to a judge's recommended onset date without effectively advocating for their clients. This is a missed opportunity to provide meaningful assistance and advocacy for their clients. At The Hicks Law Firm, we fight for every possible month of past-due benefits possible because it means extra financial security for our deserving clients.