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Story of Justice: Saving Emily’s Social Security


Emily* has been getting Social Security disability benefits, as a disabled adult child, most of her life due to intellectual and learning disabilities.   School was difficult for Emily and although she was in ESE classes, she did not finish high school.  Due to her disabilities, Emily, who is now in her 40s, has never been able to work.  When Social Security reviewed Emily’s case to see if she was still disabled, they decided she was ready to start working because she was able to do simple tasks like microwaving a frozen meal and dressing herself. Social Security proposed stopping her benefits.  Emily did not understand why this was happening since her intellectual disability had not changed and did not know how she would pay her rent and bills without her benefits. Emily appealed Social Security’s decisions and asked for her benefits to continue during the appeal.

Legal Assistance

Emily asked CCLA for help with her Social Security disability case.  The CCLA attorney worked with Emily for over two years, guided her through multiple levels of appeals, and worked with the local SSA office when they did not timely issue her monthly continuation of benefits checks.

Social Security relies very heavily on medical records when determining if someone is disabled.  When Emily first came to CCLA she went to yearly physicals with a primary care doctor, but did not otherwise have records to support her case as her main limitations are caused by her intellectual disability.  CCLA referred her to Vocational Rehabilitation where she was able to get a psychological exam, including IQ testing, which showed she still met Social Security’s requirements to be disabled based on her IQ score.  CCLA also connected her to mental health treatment, where she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.  She started attending regular appointments with a psychiatrist and found her mental health medications to be beneficial.  Her psychiatrist also provided a strong statement in support of her case.

When it was time for Emily to have a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), the CCLA attorney submitted all of the records that had been developed and a brief arguing that Emily was still disabled.  The ALJ agreed and approved Emily’s case based on the strength of her records without having to hold a hearing.

Why it Matters

Emily was thrilled that she will keep getting her monthly benefits and was thankful for CCLA’s assistance.  If Emily’s case had not been successful, she would have had to repay Social Security over $28,600 in benefits she received during her appeal.  Since Emily continued to get her benefits during her appeal she would not be able to get a private attorney on a contingency basis.  Without CCLA providing free legal assistance, she likely would have had to go through the lengthy appeal process alone.

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*Names, images, and details have been changed to protect our client’s privacy

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