It is not easy to convince an ALJ that a client meets or equals a mental impairment listing, and it is especially difficult to win under Listing 12.08, Personality and impulse-control disorders. Although many of our clients suffer from either diagnosed or undiagnosed personality disorders, ALJs often do not recognize the diagnosis as causing disabling limitations. But Ellen Rita Heidrick, an attorney at the Bath office of LawNY, recently persuaded an ALJ that her client met Listing 12.08.
Ellen provided the ALJ with a pre-hearing memo, detailing her client’s treatment. She documented the pervasive pattern of his distrust and suspiciousness of others, disregard for and violation of the rights of others, instability of interpersonal relationships, excessive emotionality, and recurrent, impulsive behavioral outbursts – all of which demonstrated his impulse control disorder and satisfied the A criteria of Listing 12.08. Ellen pointed to many instances in the treatment notes documenting his agitation, anger, impulsive behavior, negative interactions with others resulting in law enforcement intervention, paranoia, perceived slights, rumination, and perseveration.
The ALJ agreed the claimant met the listing at the beginning of the hearing before taking any testimony. The ALJ adopted Ellen’s memo almost word for word as his decision, finding marked limitations in interacting with others; concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and adapting and managing oneself. Of note, the ALJ decided the claim under the new opinion evidence regulations, finding the opinions of the consultative examiner and treating therapist “highly persuasive.” [See the January 2017 edition of this newsletter for more on the new regulations.] The ALJ also reopened a prior application, as the initial denial was within one year of the second application.
As Ellen noted, her client’s diagnosis, as is often the case, made working with him challenging. Congratulations to Ellen for her sensitive representation. She gathered excellent documentation and medical source statements, and persuaded the ALJ to accept her argument.