Lawyers Help Elderly Woman Win Social Security Disability Appeal

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Community Renewal

McKenna, Long & Aldridge Washington Partner Cass Christenson and Associate Michael Alexander recently won a social security disability appeal forMs. Thomas, a pro-bono client who was unable to navigate through the paperwork and legalities involved in such an appeal.

In 2006, Ms. Thomas filed her own disability claim, but she was denied benefits. She then filed a request for reconsideration, which was also denied. Due to lack of procedural understanding, Ms. Thomas failed to assert a timely request for appeal and was left with only food stamps to sustain her.

After the court dismissed the claim, the Whitman-Walker Clinic retained McKenna, Long & Aldridge, a HandsOn Network supporter, to represent Ms. Thomas. Alexander and Christenson took action to begin helping this elderly woman receive the social security benefits she needed to survive.

First they prepared a petition to overturn the dismissal and reinstate the claim based on Ms. Thomas' lack of procedural understanding. After finishing the petition,Alexander worked with Ms. Thomas’ doctors to review her medical records and develop a theory of disability. Finally, Alexander and Christenson prepared a comprehensive letter brief that persuasively addressed the many relevant regulations and standards to prove why Ms. Thomas should qualify for disability.

After specifically complimenting the quality of argument and presentation of the brief during the hearing, the judge determined that Ms. Thomas was indeed eligible for benefits. He ruled that the onset of her disability began in late 2006 when she filed her initial claim.

After hearing the judge's ruling, a tearful Ms. Thomas expressed her extreme gratitude to Alexander, Christenson, and the court. Thanks to the efforts of Alexander and Christenson, Ms. Thomas, who received only food stamps that did not even cover her food expenses, now receives both past and future disability benefits. These assets dramatically relieve Ms. Thomas’ financial and emotional strain, as past benefits alone equal about $20,000. Their voluntary work will literally elevate this woman’s quality of life and likelihood of survival.

"Michael's diligence in securing much needed benefits for Ms. Thomas demonstrates the dual value of pro-bono work - helping others in need who cannot afford our services while reaping the satisfaction of knowing that we can make a difference in improving the lives of others," Christenson said.

To learn how your organization can better leverage skills-based volunteers, check out the Corporation for National and Community Service’s “Non-Profit Readiness Toolkit for Pro-bono Volunteering”. To find a skill-based volunteer opportunity of your own, search keyword: “pro bono” “skills-based” “professional skills” “consulting.”.

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