Justice Supported: Building a network where there was none

Our client is a New Jersey man living with HIV who has endured a tough life. He was severely abused as a child and dropped out of school in sixth grade. With no education or support from friends and family, he began using and selling drugs as a teenager. He spent most of his life in jail.

Thankfully, he has been sober for the last three years. He now finds his support in a mental illness partial care program that he attends three days a week, and a weekly suboxone treatment and substance abuse counseling program.

Although his life is far better than it ever was, he is unable to work. His application for Social Security disability benefits was denied and we represented him at a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. A vocational expert appeared at the hearing and testified that our client could perform a basic-level low-function job despite his health challenges. This testimony could have easily derailed his claim for disability benefits.

Based on our experience in representing clients in Social Security hearings, we were prepared for the possibility that the vocational expert would testify that he could perform some level of work. We argued that his mental health problems would prevent him from performing even this type of work on a regular basis. The judge agreed and our client was awarded Social Security disability benefits.

After a rough, unsupported life, our client is now fully supported and finally has the foundation to establish a happy and healthy life.