Brief Writing Service for Legal Practitioners
We offer a brief writing service for legal practitioners (attorney and non-attorney).
If requested, we can prepare a written argument (brief) for you, in either a MS Word or WordPerfect format, to submit to the Appeals Council with your letterhead for a flat fee of $650.
We need the unfavorable ALJ decision, the exhibit list attached to the decision, the CD of the exhibit file records or the electronic download of the exhibit file records from the hearing office, and the audio recording of the hearing. If needed, we can request the audio recording of the ALJ hearing for you.
The processing time for the Appeals Council to respond to appeals is about 14 months, on average. Of course, this varies significantly as occasionally they will respond within 3 months and other times two years or more.
If you choose not to pursue the claim
Following an unfavorable ALJ decision, or any other unfavorable determination, if you choose not to pursue the appeal we are available to accept the case at any administrative level from your referral. If you wish, either contact us directly about the claim or have your client do so. We only concentrate on Social Security disability and SSI claims at the administrative level. If your client has questions or concerns about any other legal matter, they will be directed back you.
A few examples of factors in arguments to the appeals council.
Example # 1: The ALJ decision does not comply with agency policy (Social Security Ruling 00-4p), requiring inconsistencies be resolved between vocational expert (VE) testimony and the information contained in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). The residual functional capacity finding states that the claimant is limited to occasional reaching bilaterally. The following jobs were cited by the VE in respond to the hypothetical question posed by the ALJ: (a) small products assembler (DOT # 706.684-022); (b) night office cleaner (DOT # 323.687-014; and coin machine collector (DOT # 292.687-010). The DOT shows that each of these jobs require frequent (1/3 to 2/3 of an 8-hour work day) reaching. The decision does not resolve the consistency between the claimant's limitations in reaching and the demands of the jobs cited by the VE. Given the RFC assessment, the claimant is not capable of performing any of the jobs cited by the VE and the decision does not meet its burden at Step 5.
Example # 2: The decision does not comply with agency policy (Social Security Ruling 83-10 ) in assessing the claimant's residual functional capacity assessment. Where the decision finds the claimant capable of work at the light exertional level with the ability to only stand for two hours out of an eight-hour workday, the assessment is not light. Just because the decision calls something light work does not make it light work. The claimant cannot frequently lift and carry if he cannot frequently stand and walk. Allowing for frequent lifting/carrying, such a functional combination is impossible under the Commissioner's own policy. SSR 83-10 specifies that light work requires frequent lifting and carrying and frequent lifting and carrying requires being on one's feet up to two-thirds of a workday. Further, the decision does not comply with agency policy (Social Security Ruling 00-4p) in accepting the vocational expert testimony citing jobs with the decision RFC finding because an ALJ may not rely on vocational evidence that is "based on underlying assumptions or definitions that are inconsistent with [Agency] regulatory policies or definitions." This very interesting and creative argument was developed by Dave Chermol, an attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (http://www.ssihelp.us/) .
Example # 3: The decision does not comply with agency policy (Social Security Ruling 96-8p) to assess the claimant's work related abilities. The RFC assessment does not contain a quantitative function-by-function assessment. The residual functional capacity assessment states that the claimant's ability to push and pull with the lower extremities and to be exposed to whole body vibration, hazardous machinery, and heights as "limited". The term "limited " is not defined in vocational terms (i.e., none, occasional, frequent, constant). It left the VE to guess at its meaning as it does any reviewing party.
Example # 4: The decision does not comply with agency policies (Social Security Rulings 96-8p & 96-9p) in regards to providing a function-by-function assessment of the claimant's severe impairments. The Step 2 finding states that the claimant's history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is severe, but the residual functional capacity finding does not contain a function-by-function assessment of the claimant's ability to be exposed to environmental pollutants such as fumes, dusts, odors, gases, and/or poor ventilation nor provide rationale. Given the decision found the claimant's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to be severe, the RFC assessment must contain a corresponding function-function assessment of the claimant's work-related abilities due to this impairment.
Example # 5: The decision does not comply with agency policy (Social Security Ruling 02-1p) concerning obesity. While the record reflects a diagnosis of obesity (Exhibit 7F) with the claimant's height at 61 inches and weight at 254 pounds, the decision did not consider the claimant's obesity at Steps 2 through 5 of the Sequential Evaluation Process. The decision erred in failing: (a) to address the claimant's obesity as a severe impairment at Step 2; (b) to evaluate the severity of the claimant's impairments in respect to meeting or functionally equaling the Listing of Impairments at Step 3; and (c) to consider obesity in assessing the claimant's residual functional capacity.
Example # 6: The Step 5 finding that the claimant can make successful adjustment to other jobs that exist in the national economy is not supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ accepted the testimony of the vocational expert who cited jobs that could be performed given the claimant's age, education, work experience and residual functional capacity. However, the hypothetical question posed by the ALJ to the vocational expert does not contain the essential factors in the residual functional capacity assessment. While the RFC finding reflects the claimant is capable of light work with a sit-stand option at 30 minute intervals, the option for alternative sitting and standing was not contained in the hypothetical question posed by the ALJ to the VE. Therefore, the testimony by the vocational expert is based upon a fatally flawed hypothetical question and cannot support a finding of "not disabled" in Step 5.