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Social Security Disability Law Section


Social Security Disability Law Newsletter - Fall 2016

by Geen Mui | Oct 31, 2016

E-Newsletter Editor:  Michael Persellin


PHQ’s, WHODAS and ME’s Analyze Mental Health Claims

Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Time: 12:15 PM to 1:15 PM

Venue: President’s Room / MSBA Office

Remote Participation: Live webcast available.

Faculty/Trainer:  Linda Berberoglu, JD, PhD, ABPP, License Psych., Board Cert. Forensic Psych.

Program details to come. Lunch provided. 

CLE Credit:  1.0 Standard CLE credit | Event Code: TBD

This program is free to Social Security Disability Law Section Members.
MSBA Member but not a member of the Section:  $15.00
Non-MSBA Members:  $20.00
Law Students: Free
New Admittees (Attorneys Admitted to the MN Bar after January 1, 2015):  Free

Deadline to Register:  January 15, 2017 


March 21, 2017     CLE (To Be Announced)

May 16, 2017        CLE (To Be Announced)


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. 

November 15, 2016 -  Brown Bag Discussion:  Minn. Stat. Sec. 144.292 – “The $10 Medical Records Statute”

February 21, 2017     TBD

April 18, 2017            TBD


No significant cases to report.


Having a strong medical source statement can make or break your case.  I recently had four video hearings in Marshall.  Three of the claims were extremely strong from my point of view.  The fourth one involved a younger individual with "only" mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  I had a strong mental medical source statement for that case.  Three of the four claims had onset date issues.  One client used 1988, when he injured his shoulders at work.  Prior to the hearing, we filed a written, amended onset to claimant’s 50th birthday.  Another client crossed the SGA threshold when she went back to work after exhausting her vacation and sick pay for her cancer treatments.  Another client had memory issues and no idea what to base her onset date on.

In the three strongest claims, the judge told the claimants he was going to grant benefits based on amended onset dates.  For the claimant with a bad memory, the judge and I explained the impact that changing her onset date would have.  The VE testified as to the judge’s first hypothetical that there was other work the claimant could do.  Then the judge went to the section of the medical source statement addressing claimant’s mental ability and aptitude to do unskilled work.  All of these were opined to be either "unable to meet competitive standards" or "no useful ability to function.”  (I use Thomas Bush's formatted source statements.)  Critically, the judge asked one question at a time.  For each one, the VE responded “no” to sustained employment.  Other judges pile everything into one hypothetical and then deny the claim based on the conclusion not to give weight to every single thing the treating source said.  The judge did not tell my client he was granting benefits.  However, he told her that if she was in danger of being evicted, contact me and he would issue his decision faster than the usual 6 to 8 weeks.  I assume this will also be a favorable decision.

I spoke with the Hearing Reporter after the hearings.  She said she sees this judge grant benefits at the hearing three time in a year, not three times in one week.  The Reporter said the difference was that I addressed the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence and issues subjects regarding the onset dates at the beginning of the hearings.  She said that other attorneys bring up these subjects in closing argument.  The Reporter really appreciated how short the hearings were.  She told several of my clients how lucky they were to have an experienced attorney who got all the evidence in ahead of time and was really prepared, especially for this particular judge.

So, the practice tip is to be brave and admit the strengths and weaknesses of the claim up front.  Be sure your client knows these issues will arise and what the judge is most likely to do.

            - Thanks to Ardys Korstad, Korstad Law Office, Amboy, MN.


Social Security Tax Jumps 7%, Benefits Just 0.3%| Forbes

Why Are Recent COLA’s So Small?| AARP

Where Do the Candidates Stand on Social Security?| AARP

Congress Considers Significant Cuts to Social Security’s Operating Budget| NOSSCR

Social Security Retreats From Cellphone-Based Online Security| NYTimes

The Problem With Social Security Lies With Its History| WashingtonPost

Social Security Must Be Fair For Everyone| WashingtonPost


SSA Online                

SSA Programs Operations Manual System (POMS)

SS Rulings and Acquiescence Rulings

Hearings, Appeals, and Litigation Manual (HALLEX)

Social Security Law Wiki| Wikispaces

8th Circuit Social Security Case Law and Summaries| PROJUSTICEMN

Occupational Information Network| U.S. Dept. of Labor

Compassionate Allowances|

Quick Disability Decisions (QQD)|


June 7-10, 2017   Washington, WA

September 13-16, 2017   Phoenix, AZ

April 25-28, 2018   Atlanta, GA


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 newsletter to the editor at


Section Only  $28 
Regular Attorney Member  $28 
Public/Legal Services Member  $28 
New Admittee  $0 
Law Student    $0


Council Officers: 
Co-Chair: David L. Christianson, Christianson Law  
Co-Chair:  Emily Cooper, Cooper Law, LLC 
Secretary:  Sarah Soucie Eyberg, Assure Disability 
Treasurer:  Anthony Mannella, Midwest Disability PA Inc 

Council Members: 
Samantha Clawson, Southern MN Regional Legal Services
Shelley Jensen, Judicare of Anoka County Inc
Paul McGrath, Minnesota Disability Law Center
Gregg Nelson, Nelson Law Office
Michael Persellin, Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
J. Asha Sharma, Disability Partners
Ellen Smart, Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance
Kirk Thompson, Cronan Thompson

MSBA Section Manager: 
Geen Mui 
(612) 278-6346

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