Federal Judge In Missouri Denies Disability Status to Woman With Birth Injury

One reason medical malpractice lawsuits for birth injuries are so critical is because if someone receives a birth injury, the effects can last for a lifetime. The individual may lose income and other opportunities due to an ongoing physical or neurological disability that may cost thousands — if not millions — of dollars to treat over the years. He or she may have to depend upon government funds, such as Supplemental Security Disability Income, to make ends meet, and getting those funds may be a struggle, as it means proving without a doubt that you are disabled.

omega-hover-from-the-sixties-6020-m.jpgIn the case of Downing v. Colvin, a federal judge in Missouri found that one woman who suffered an injury at birth did not qualify as disabled. Tina Downing applied for disability benefits in 2009, stating that she had a learning disability and shoulder problems. Her application was denied, and upon appeal, an administrative law judge found that she was not “disabled” as defined by the Social Security Act. After the Social Security Appeals Council refused to review, Downing sought a federal court review.

Downing was born with a low birth weight and had required lifelong assistance for her learning disability and shoulder problems, which include chronic arthritis. She successfully applied for disability at the age of 18. Her doctor noted that she had asymmetry in her shoulders and had never been able to hold a full-time job. More than one specialist noted that she had a “borderline” IQ.

Magistrate Judge Robert Larsen considered testimony from Downing, her doctors, the vocational expert (who determines whether an individual could hypothetically perform work in this economy), and the findings of the administrative law judge. Downing argued that the administrative law judge erred when he ruled against her on the basis that her learning disability did not meet the basis for mental retardation, and that he did not fully consider evidence of her physical disabilities.

Judge Larsen agreed with the administrative law judge that Downing was not mentally retarded, noting that she was not in special education in high school and graduated with some A’s, although the rest of her grades were low. She therefore did not have deficits in adaptive functioning, which was required to meet the definition of mentally retarded. The judge also noted that while Downing’s shoulder pain was chronic, she was still able to find employment. Finally, the judge claimed that Downing’s doctors’ testimony about her disability was not supported by significant evidence. Downing was therefore considered to be capable of light work, and could perform her past relevant work as a housekeeper.

Meeting the government definition of disabled can be difficult, and does not mean that the individual does not suffer from serious problems that impact day-to-day life. Had Downing not suffered from birth problems, her circumstances might have been very different. That is often why those who experience birth injuries file medical malpractice lawsuits against the physician or staff responsible for the injury, so that they have money to help them in the event they are incapable of performing full-time work. If you live in Maryland or Washington, D.C. and have experienced a birth injury, or have a child who suffered a birth injury, contact a Baltimore birth injury attorney today.

Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt has more than 100 years of collective experience dealing with medical malpractice and birth injury cases. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the firm represents residents in Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you have a birth injury or other medical malpractice issue, contact us today for a free consultation.

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