Combination of Impairments Result in More than Minimal Limitations

 

At the age of 40, wife and mother Margaret Parsons, suffering from deepening depression and having thoughts of suicide, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a week. There, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

After being released, Parsons continued treatment with a psychiatrist for ongoing depression, mood swings, suicidal thoughts and anxiety. However, she was no longer able to continue her work as a waitress and bartender. Her husband, who had multiple sclerosis, was on Social Security Disability, and the family was struggling financially. Parsons started a part-time collections business to help the family finances.

Months later, Parsons began experiencing severe headaches. Her family doctor referred her to a neurologist, who diagnosed her with chronic, daily headaches and prescribed physical therapy to relieve neck pain and tension.

At age 42, Parsons was hospitalized for a week with multiple symptoms, including fever, nausea, night sweats, swollen lymph glands, joint pain, and a rash on her lower legs. Testing was positive for rheumatoid factor. She was diagnosed with adult onset Still’s Disease, a variation of rheumatoid arthritis. She was treated with steroids.

After her diagnosis with Still’s Disease, Parsons found she was no longer able to work. She filed for Social Security Disability. She was denied benefits at application and again at reconsideration. Parsons enlisted Attorney Neil H. Good to represent her at the Social Security Administration hearing.

In his pre-hearing memorandum, Attorney Good discussed Parsons’ multiple impairments. She had bipolar disorder with manic episodes followed by depression and suicidal ideation. She had loss of memory and concentration. She suffered from headaches with dizziness and nausea. She had Still’s Disease with joint pain, swelling and tenderness, and joint inflammation which made it difficult for her to walk. Attorney Good stated, “The combined effects of all the physical as well as mental impairments are greater than the effects of each and result in more than minimal limitation.”

After reviewing the evidence, the Administrative Law Judge agreed. “[T]he record confirms that the claimant is suffering from a disabling mental impairment that is further exacerbated by her chronic pain and physical functional limitations due to her rheumatoid arthritis condition.” The judge noted her strong work history and her “aggressive efforts to bring her medical conditions under control.”

Margaret Parsons was awarded Social Security Disability benefits.