Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tree Law Sets Legal Precedence in Social Security Disability Law

Not many lawyers have the opportunity to set new Social Security law in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Tree Law is one of the few law firms in Washington State that has set new law to assist claimants in being awarded Social Security Disability Benefits.

Loyd Gatliff applied for social security benefits and was denied those benefits twice before he had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Mr. Tree represented Loyd Gatliff at his Social Security Disability Hearing. At the hearing Mr. Tree obtained evidence that due to Mr. Gatliff’s impairments he could only hold a job for a couple months before he would be fired as a result of his impairments. The Social Security ALJ held that Mr. Gatliff could piece together a series of jobs each lasting approximately two to three months and denied Mr. Gatliff’s claim. An appeal to the Social Security Administration Appeals Council in Arlington, Virginia was denied.

Another appeal was made to the Federal District Court where the Federal Judge declared there was no law in the ninth circuit on the issue of whether a person who could only work a couple months should be found disabled. Absent such law he sided with the Social Security Administration and upheld the denial of benefits to Mr. Gatliff.

Mr. Tree appealed this denial to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California. The Ninth Circuit is the largest federal court in the United States and has jurisdiction over 9 western states in the United States. Appeals from the Ninth Circuit go directly to the US Supreme Court. Mr. Tree had to travel to present oral argument before three Judges from the ninth circuit.

The ninth circuit court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Tree’s argument and held that not only must a person be able to find a job but they must be able to hold it for a significant period of time. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals awarded Mr. Gatliff over five years of back benefits. Gatliff v. Social Security Administration 172 F. 3d. 690 (9th Cir. 1999) This case can be read at

As a result new law was established in the Ninth Circuit. Now throughout the 9th circuit whenever a claimant is only able to hold a job for a few months before getting fired they should receive benefits based on the precedent setting case of Gatliff v. Social Security.


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