On March 30, 2012, United States District Judge Tucker L. Melancon issued a Judgment in favor of Plaintiff Ray Romero and against the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Administration”) in a lawsuit appealing the Administration’s denial of Mr. Romero’s application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB” or “disability benefits”). In the Judgment, the Court reversed the Administration’s adverse decision and ordered it to pay Mr. Romero disability benefits from his disability onset date of February 2, 2006. Mr. Romero was represented in Federal court by Matthew Lane, a Lafayette, Louisiana Social Security Disability lawyer.
Mr. Romero’s case illustrates the importance of being represented by an experienced and knowledgeable Social Security Disability lawyer when appealing a denial of disability benefits in Federal court. Mr. Romero represented himself before the Administration, including at his Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing and while appealing the ALJ’s denial to the Appeals Council. He also filed the Federal court lawsuit against the Administration on his own; however, he had problems untangling the procedural complexities of the Federal court system while also dealing with a debilitating heart problem.
When Mr. Romero first met with attorney Matthew Lane in January 2011, Mr. Romero’s lawsuit was scheduled to be dismissed in two days for failure to prosecute. Moreover, Mr. Romero’s eligibility for disability benefits had expired on June 30, 2008, which meant that the Federal court appeal was Mr. Romero’s last chance to prove that he was disabled prior to that date. In other words, had Mr. Romero’s case been dismissed from Federal court, he would never again be eligible for DIB (unless he returned to work, which is not possible due to a severe heart problem).
Once Mr. Lane began representing Mr. Romero, the first obstacle to be overcome was a motion by the Administration claiming that Mr. Romero had filed his lawsuit one day late. The Administration urged the Court to dismiss Mr. Romero’s lawsuit due to the alleged late filing. Mr. Lane was able to demonstrate multiple reasons why the lawsuit was timely filed, and the Court agreed. It denied the Administration’s motion in a decision dated June 20, 2011. Ray Romero v. Social Security Administration, CA No. 6:09-0155, 2011 WL 2634104 (W.D. La. 2011).
Thereafter, Mr. Lane filed an appeal brief with the Court demonstrating that the Administration had failed to consider significant medical evidence demonstrating that Mr. Romero had cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart) and congestive heart failure that caused him to be severely short of breath on minimal exertion. Mr. Lane further demonstrated that Mr. Romero’s condition did not significantly improve despite medical management and implantation of a pacemaker.
Based on the appeal briefs prepared and submitted by Mr. Lane, the Court found that Mr. Romero was disabled under the Social Security Act since his alleged disability onset date of February 2, 2006, and ordered the Administration to pay benefits from that date. Federal courts rarely order the Administration to pay benefits; typically, Federal courts remand cases for re-adjudication by the Administration. In 2011, for example, Federal courts ordered the Administration to pay benefits in only 3% of all Social Security cases appealed to the Federal court level.
As a result of Mr. Lane’s legal representation, Mr. Romero has been awarded over 5 years of past-due disability benefits, ongoing monthly disability benefits, and is now entitled to Medicare coverage. “Winning Ray’s disability case,” said Mr. Lane, “was the most gratifying victory of my legal career to date. I am very happy for both Ray and his family.”
Mr. Lane is the owner and managing attorney of Matthew D. Lane, Jr. and practices exclusively in the area of Social Security Disability law. Matthew D. Lane, Jr. assists individuals throughout Southwest and Central Louisiana whose applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits or Supplemental Security Income have been denied.