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Disabled Doesn't Mean Disabled: Ronald Dearth the Upholsterer's Assistant

Ronald A. Dearth v. Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit D.C. No. 00-cv-1257, Opinion Filed May 23, 2002 Not Precedental

If you are applying for Social Security Disability and you only understand one thing about the process understand this: Disabled Doesn’t Mean Disabled. There is the everday definition of disabled most people would probably use. There is the dictionary definition of disabled. There are definitions other government and social service programs use. Then there is the Social Security Disability Law definition. I am not going to even state the Social Security definition in this posting. Just know that it is a very complex and legalistic definition with many layers.

The case of Ronald Dearth helps to somewhat illustrate this point. His Attorney, John G. Burt of Pittsburgh argued his case all the way to the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals. This is one step below the United States Supreme Court. Attorneys David F. Chermol and Heather Benderson argued for the Social Security Administration.

At Ronald's initial appeal hearing the Administrative Law Judge found that while Ronald suffered from severe mental and physical impairments including major depression, degenerative disc disease, and loss of the use of several fingers on both hands. Most people would consider him disabled to some degree. The Judge though said he was not disabled under the Social Security Disability Law definition. Why was this? The records and evidence indicated that his depression was manageable with medication and treatment and that despite the spine disorder and loss of use of some fingers he could still work in positons such as a security guard or inventory clerk even if he could not longer perform the duties of his previous job as an Upholsterer's Assistant.

The Appeals Court sided with the Social Security Administration stating that there was substantial evidence that supported the Judge's decision determining that Ronald could still perform the functions of some jobs.

Sometimes people get frustrated with and don't understand "the system." At the same time they are applying for benefits, they are usually going through very stressful and painful periods in their life. The more you work with and get to know your Attorney and the better they explain the law to you, the better your chances and the more they can help take away some of that confusion and lessen the anxiety about the whole process.

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