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Social Security Disability Law Section


Social Security Disability Newsletter - January 2016

by Sue Bores | Jan 29, 2016

E-Newsletter Editor:  Michael Persellin

March 22 (Noon) - Testimony and Cross-Examination of Vocational Experts
April 26 (Noon) - Sensory Impairments  with Trainer Ethel Schaen, Esq. 

In addition to formal section meetings, the section will hold roundtable discussion groups.  The “brown-bag” roundtables will give section members a place to meet with other SSD practitioners and discuss hot topics, new rules, share practice tips and ask questions.

February 23, 2016 - Brown Bag meeting (Noon-1:15 pm.) - Red Flags when Reviewing Medical Records
May 31 - Brown Bag meeting (Noon-1:15 pm.) - Social Security Horror Stories

Mitchael v. Colvin, 2016 WL 145843 (8th Cir.)
Former dual status National Guard technicians brought action seeking to compel Commissioner to recalculate amount of their benefits to allow them to take advantage of rule allowing dual status technicians to avoid application of Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).  District Court for Eastern District of Arkansas dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and technicians appealed.  Circuit Court held Commissioner had no clear, nondiscretionary duty to reconsider benefits awarded to technicians, and thus Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction over action under federal mandamus statute.  Court also held that technicians failed to present colorable constitutional claim, and thus Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction over action pursuant to Social Security Act provision authorizing judicial review over final decisions.

Approvals Based on “Minor” Secondary Impairments
Claimants are often approved for disability based on the impairments they believe to be primary such as chronic pain, arthritis, or mental illness – but not always.  Some individuals stand a better chance of winning disability based on secondary impairments, and a relatively weak case can be strengthened and become a winning case by focusing on what may appear to be “lesser” impairments.

For example, one of my clients was a woman in her 20s with three children, some moderate depression and anxiety, low-average IQ, and who was functioning relatively well.  Her treatment of her mental illness was sporadic, and medical records sparse.  This young woman also struggled with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, in which ingesting gluten damages the small intestine.

Upon meeting her, I noticed that she seemed quite thin.  The medical records revealed that her Body Mass Index (BMI) ranged from 17 to 19 over a period of several months.   For some medical visits, no BMI was calculated, although height and weight information was given, and so BMI calculation was possible using online BMI calculators.  The BMI calculations confirmed that she met Listing 5.08, “Weight loss due to any digestive disorder,” which directs a determination of disability when a BMI is 17.5 or less, at two evaluations 60 days apart in a six-month period.

Likewise, a number of clients have presented with depression, anxiety and back pain – but won their cases based on 8.00, Skin Disorders Listings.  These Listings typically require the presence of lesions present in the underarm, groin, and anal region, which very seriously interfere with use of the hands or legs/feet – despite prescribed treatment.

For one client in her 20s, with mild depression, morbid obesity, and skin lesions, medical source statements focusing on skin lesions, photographs of the lesions, and compelling testimony resulted in an approval.  Another client in his late 40s, with some mild back pain and depression, won his case because of his extensive skin lesions, which were well documented in the record, and compelling testimony about the end of his 20-year relationship because of odor from the skin lesions.

It pays to look beyond the presenting impairments as clients will not always be aware that their secondary impairments could be disabling based on a Listing.

J. Asha Sharma, Esq., Disability Partners, PLLC 


Social Security in an Election Year|NYTimes

NOSSCR Applauds Bipartisan Budget Act|NOSSCR

Social Security’s Fiscal Year 2015 Agency Financial Report|WashPost

Schedule of Social Security Payments - 2016|

Changing Strategies for Social Security|NYTimes

Occupational Information System Project|

Social Security’s Fiscal Year 2015 Agency Financial Report| 

Each and every member of our section is welcome, and encouraged, to submit news for the section newsletter. News is anything our members might find interesting or helpful, and may include a link to a news story, an article you’ve written for another publication, a helpful practice form, or a case summary – anything relative to our practice area. Please send submissions for the April newsletter to the editor at by March 31.

Social Security News|Federal Bar Association 
SSA Online
SSA Programs Operations Manual System (POMS)
SS Rulings and Acquiescence Rulings
Hearings, Appeals, and Litigation Manual (HALLEX)
8th Circuit Social Security Case Law and Summaries|PROJUSTICEMN
Occupational Information Network|U.S. Dept. of Labor
Compassionate Allowances|
Quick Disability Decisions (QQD)|

June 1-4, 2016, Miami Beach, FL
November 2-5, 2016, Seattle, WA

Co-Chair:  Michael Persellin, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid
Co-Chair:  David L. Christianson, Christianson Law
Secretary:  Anthony Mannella, Midwest Disability PA Inc
Treasurer:  Emily Cooper, Cooper & Reid LLC

Council Members
David L. Christianson, Christianson Law
Samantha Clawson, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services
Emily Cooper, Cooper & Reid LLC
Shelley Jensen, Judicare of Anoka County Inc
Andrew Kinney, Hoglund Chwialkowski & Mrozik PLLC
Anthony Mannella, Midwest Disability PA Inc
Gregg Nelson, Nelson Law Office
Michael Persellin, Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
Ellen Smart, Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
Sarah Soucie Eyberg
Kirk Thompson, Cronan Thompson

MSBA Social Security Disability Law Section
Annual Report
2016 - 2017 

Section Membership
As of June 23, 2017, the Section has 86 members.

Financial Status
The Section had an account balance of $1,557.26 as of May 31, 2017.

CLEs & Events
The Section hosted 5 programs/events in fiscal year 2016-17.   

Program Title


Event Code

CLE Credits

Number of Attendees

SSA Office of Disability Adjudication and Review – Current Issues and Annual Meeting

May 23, 2017


1.0 Standard


A Look at the Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Health Disorders

March 21, 2017


1.0 Standard


An Analysis of Mental Health Claims

January 17, 2017


1.0 Standard


SSD Law Brown Bag / Roundtable Discussion: MN Statute: Section 144.292 Patients’ Rights and the $10 Medical Records Fee

November 15, 2016




Working with Non-citizens on Social Security Claims

October 18, 2016


1.0 Standard


Annual Meeting and Election Results

The Section’s Annual Meeting was held on May 23, 2017 and 31 people attended. 

The following Officers and Council Members were elected and/or re-elected to serve on the Section’s Governing Council starting July 1, 2017:

Co-Chair:  Emily Cooper, Cooper & Reid LLC
Co-Chair:  Sarah Soucie Eyberg
Secretary:  Asha Sharma, Disability Partners
Treasurer:  Tony Mannella, Midwest Disability PA Inc

Council Members:
David Christianson, Christianson Law
Samantha Clawson, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services 
Shelley Jensen, Judicare of Anoka County Inc
Paul McGrath, Disability Partners
Laura Melnick, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services
Gregg Nelson, Nelson Law Office
Michael Persellin, Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance 
Kirk Thompson, Cronan Thompson

Submitted By:

Emily Cooper, Section Co-Chair
Date: July 5, 2017