Carrie was 49 when she applied for disability benefits. Her case went through many of the possible steps, including application, reconsideration, appeal, and then a hearing, and she was ultimately awarded benefits dating back nearly eight years. She had worked as a floral designer, account manager, and self-employed teacher.
Attorney Neil H. Good argued that Carrie became unable to work because of a disabling condition on Jan. 1, 2001. She had not been engaged in gainful activity since 2006. At a hearing before the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), the Administrative Law Judge took the somewhat unusual step of announcing his fully favorable decision while all were still at the hearing, from the bench.
He found Carrie disabled “because of chronic migraine headaches so severe you are unable to perform any work existing in significant numbers in the national economy …. I found you have later severe impairments of status post fracture of the left hip; hypertension, dysautonomia, and degenerative disc disease, and degenerative impairment of the spine that also preclude the performance of any work existing in significant numbers in the national economy.”
In late 2004, after Carrie was already disabled but before she’d applied for or received benefits, she’d been seriously injured in an automobile accident. She suffered a fractured hip and ribs, requiring surgeries. As Attorney Good wrote in his pre-hearing memo, outlining the severity of Carrie’s medical condition, the accident caused her to be confined to a wheelchair for three months. She continued to have back pain and difficulty ambulating. And as of the hearing, “she continues to have pain, weakness, difficulty ambulating, and difficulty sitting or standing for periods of time.” The judge found Carrie suffered disorders of the spine, with L4-5 stenosis with disk protrusion and L5-S1 facet arthropathy and fluid in the left facet joint. Injections provided no pain relief or recovery.
In a pre-hearing memo, attorney Good outlined her condition: She continues to have pain and difficulty moving and has metatarsal deformity of both feet, onchomycosis, tinea pedis, and keratotic lesions. She passes out without warning and has been diagnosed with dysautonomia, abnormal functioning of the nervous system. She had a positive Tilt Table Test, and has chronic and recurrent migraines, frontal and periorbital, with aura, visual changes, photophobia, phonophobia, osmophobia, nausea, and vomiting. She has sinus tachycardia and T-wave abnormality, with low magnesium and potassium, plus recurrent chest pains and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
The judge ultimately agreed with Attorney Good’s assertion of Carrie being disabled as of Jan. 1, 2001. Her attempts to work in subsequent years were “found to have been an unsuccessful work attempt.”