There was an interesting case out of Michigan last week that could potentially affect Social Security disability applicants in Tennessee. The case is Blankenship vs. Commissioner of Social Security.
Blankenship applied for disability in 2002 claiming she was unable to work due to impairments with her feet. She appeared before a Social Security Judge in 2004 who denied her claim finding that she retained the ability to perform light level work.
Blankenship reapplied in 2010 claiming the same impairments. She again appeared before a Social Security judge who ruled that since Blankenship had not presented any new evidence since her previous denial in 2004 the judge was bound to find her disabled again due to the 2004 denial. After this denial Blankenship sued the Social Security administration in Federal Court.
The Sixth Circuit held that applying the Social Security’s own policy as well as previous sixth circuit case law that the ALJ was correct in that adjudicators must adopt prior findings – unless there is new and material evidence relating to such a finding or there has been a change in the law, regulations or rulings affecting the finding or the method for arriving at the finding. Even though Blankenship had five (5) surgeries on her feet since the previous 2004 denial, Blankenship had failed to show how the five surgeries resulted in qualitative, material change to her condition.
I believe this case emphasises two important points. First being that you should hire competent and experienced counsel as soon as possible. As this case illustrates, once a claimant has been denied disability it becomes increasingly more difficult to win benefits later due to the previous denial. Second, if you are denied and reapply be fully prepared to demonstrate how your condition has become worse or changed since the previous denial.
As always, should you have any questions regarding Social Security disability or any other disability related question please feel free to contact my office at anytime.