Bipolar Disorder – Case Study #1
Bipolar Disorder Case Study #1
Claimant: 47-year-old female
Occupation: overnight stocker at big-box retailer, manager at breakfast restaurant
Education: high school education
Hearing info: The claimant applied for benefits in August 2004, alleging an onset date in October, 2003. The hearing was held in August, 2008 at the downtown Atlanta ODAR.
Background: My client was a 47-year-old female with a long history of emotional instability and anger management issues. She complains of “racing” thoughts and has been under regular medical management treatment with a psychologist and counselor. My client also reports that she often has fits of anger and thoughts of harming herself and others. At the time of the hearing, her living arrangements had greatly contributed to her stress and emotional instability. She had been living in a room in the house of an adult child and the adult child’s spouse. My client complained that her child’s spouse often verbally abused her. In addition to the emotional issues, my client also has physical problems, including back and hip pain.
Analysis: The judge was a relatively new judge who had heard less than 5 of my hearings in the past. He did not say much and I don’t have a great sense of what he is looking for in order to approve a case. He had previously denied a case that both my paralegal and I felt should have been approved and my paralegal came with me both to support our client and to try to get a sense of this new judge.
In a meeting with the client just before few weeks when the hearing was about to take place, I felt that we had good supporting medical evidence and that she would be a good witness. My client is a sensible woman and somewhat more introspective about her mental health issues than other bipolar patients I have represented previously.
My main concern was with the babysitting work that my client was doing. She told me that her adult child and the adult child’s spouse had basically told her that if she wanted to keep her room, she need to babysit her two young grandchildren for at least three to four days a week. Although my client says that her babysitting duties only included changing diapers and watching videos, I felt that this part time work could be a possible problem.
My client came along with her adult son into the hearing, and a former work supervisor who was nice enough to take a day off work to come for the hearing. I decided to use the supervisor to testify about my client’s work ethic and about the physical and emotional issues that led to her resignation.
When we arrived at the hearing office, I learned from several colleagues that all of the judges were juggling multiple hearing calendars. Hearings were scheduled on the half-hour, rather than on the hour. In our case, we were not allowed into the hearing room until around 2pm, an hour after our case was supposed to be heard.
The hearing assistant guided us into the hearing room, where no one was present. After about 10 minutes, the judge came into the room looking harried. He asked me for an opening statement, in which I tried to summarize my argument for disability. The judge then asked me to ask my client about her medical treatment specifically. Normally, I begin with a work history and personal background, but the judge wanted me to go directly into the medical history, so I did accordingly.
The judge interfered two or three times, and my questioning lasted only for 20 minutes. At that point the judge interrupted me to say “I’ve heard enough, she meets the qualifications. Thanks for coming.”
I don’t know whether my paralegal or I got a great deal more insight about this judge, but I would like to think that the factors that weighed in our favor included:
- A long, continuous work history
- On-going medical treatment
- A good form from the treating psychiatrist
- Effective testimony from the claimant
It is also possible that the judge was really pressed for time and he made a snap decision to approve this case. Either way, I do know that our case was approved, which is ultimately the result we are going for.