Summary: 51 year old female alleging disability based on chronic myelogenous leukemia
Client profile: my client is a 51 year old female, born and educated in another country. Her past work has been as a housekeeper.
Claim background: my client filed for disability in January, 2016 alleging an onset date in the summer of 2015. A hearing was held in an Atlanta area hearing office in July, 2017.
Factors in our favor:
- my client has a chronic, serious disease that has no cure
- my client was age 50 as of her onset date
- the judge in our case is very reasonable and more likely than average to approve claims
- the medical record in this case was very complete
- my client was a very credible witness – she was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007 yet she worked full time until mid-2015 when her fatigue and pain became too great
Factors not in our favor:
- we did not have a completed functional capacity evaluation or statement on the listing from the treating oncologist
My strategy: I felt that this was a very good case with excellent medical records. I also felt that my client would present as a very solid witness. This was a case where the medical record really does speak for itself and I anticipated a very short hearing.
Hearing Report: my client was very nervous prior to the hearing and I had to reassure her that she had a strong case and only needed to tell the truth. The judge in our case is a very nice person and I felt he would be receptive to our claim. After dispensing with preliminary matters and accepting the exhibits into evidence the judge asked me for a brief opening statement.
I told the judge that my client was a 51 year old female with a high school education from another country, with basic reading and writing skills in English. Her work background was as a housekeeper for various businesses. I noted that she had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2007 and that she continued working until mid-2015 and that she only stopped because she did not have the strength to continue.
I noted that my client’s oncologist had originally prescribed a drug called Gleevec which she took for 5 years before its effectiveness waned. Thereafter she was changed to Tasigna for about a year, then Sprycel for 3 years, and that she is currently taking Bosulif. I pointed out that my client was compliant with her medical regimen (unless she did not have the money to fill her prescriptions) and that her doctors would increase the dosage until either the side effects became too extreme or the drug stopped working.
I told the judge that I expected my client to testify about extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, numbness and tingling in her hands and feet, pain in her hands and wrists, and depression and anxiety arising from her deteriorating physical condition. I also pointed out that the treating oncologist had noted several times in the record that my client could not return to work.
After my opening I asked my client to explain to the judge why she stopped working in mid-2015. My client discussed her pain, fatigue and shortness of breath and said that she would have continued if she could have because she has a teenage daughter who depends on her. We discussed the side effects of her medications as well as her feelings of sadness.
I finished my direct examination and the judge stated that he had no questions. He then turned to the vocational witness and asked the VE to identify my client’s past work – it was as a housekeeper, which is a light, unskilled job.
The judge then posed one hypothetical question: assume an individual who is the same age as the claimant with the same education and work background. Further assume that she needs a minimum of 2 hours rest in an 8 hour day. Could such a person perform the claimant’s past work or any other job. The VE responded: “no.”
Conclusions: the judge will approve this case. My client’s fatigue, pain level and medication side effects would clearly interfere with her capacity for any type of work.