Summary: 48 year old college educated male alleging disability based on schizophrenia and urinary frequency
Client profile: my client is a 48 year old male with a college degree. His past work has been as a substitute high school teacher.
Claim background: my client filed for disability in early 2014. A hearing was held in his case in November, 2016.
Factors in our favor:
- my client’s allegation of audio and visual hallucinations has been consistent for several years
- my client testified in great detail about hearing voices and being the subject of government mind control experiments
- the judge in our case is very reasonable and more likely than average to approve claims
Factors not in our favor:
- most of the treatment records in this case were from the local public hospital and did not reflect extensive medication or psychotherapy
- the consultative exam psychologist felt that my client was embellishing his symptoms
My strategy: I felt that this was a case that would turn on whether or not the judge felt that my client was truthful and credible in his presentation. Assuming he does hear voices as he claims he would clearly be unable to work. On the other hand the judge could conclude that there was some indication that my client was not being entirely truthful in his testifying. On the other hand, my client has been living in shelters and boarding houses for years despite his eligibility to earn more money from substitute teaching than he would from Social Security disability.
Hearing Report: my client and I entered the hearing room and were greeted by the judge. After dispensing with preliminary matters the judge got right down to business by asking my client why he felt that he could not work. My client immediately began talking about the voices in his head that were constantly berating him and telling him that he was a failure and not deserving of life. My client became very animated in describing his experiences.
I took over the questioning and asked my client about his thoughts that he was subject to mind control experiments. My client very matter-of-factly described the secret CIA sponsored mind control experiments that were impacting him and explained how the government used electromagnetic radiation to control his thoughts. He described how these mind control experiments were used to help the government create civil unrest and direct the lives of the experiment’s subjects.
After listening to my client’s testimony, the judge turned to the vocational expert and asked him to describe my client’s past work. He then asked one hypothetical question:
if I accept the claimant’s testimony as credible, can you identify any vocational issues that would arise from the limitations he describes?
The vocational witness explained that a person experiencing the distractions described by my client would not be able to stay on task sufficiently to sustain competitive employment.
The judge asked me if I had any questions – I did not.
Conclusions: when a judge asks only one hypothetical question, it usually means that he has found the claimant credible and that he will approve that claimant’s claim. My feeling is that this case will be approved despite the reservations expressed by the consultative psychologist and the relative lack of treatment evidence.