Rare Federal Court Decision Awards Social Security Disability to Local North Providence Woman

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A rare reversal by a US District Judge awards a local North Providence woman, represented by the Law Offices of Marasco & Nesselbush, Social Security disability benefits. In light of the recent media coverage surrounding the Social Security disability program, this valiant woman’s struggle provides some insight of the plight of the truly disabled.

In a rare move, US District Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. reversed a ruling by a local Social Security disability judge and outright awarded disability benefits to a North Providence woman, Maria Borino Provancha. After extensive legal advocacy, including a written brief and oral arguments, the Judge ordered the Social Security Administration to pay Ms. Provancha 6 years’ of back disability benefits, as well as ongoing benefits (United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, C.A. No. 12-98-M). Provancha had been mired in the application and appeals process since 2007. In light of the recent media coverage surrounding the Social Security disability program, this valiant woman’s struggle provides some insight of the plight of the truly disabled.

Maria Borino Provancha, 46, of North Providence, has long suffered from lower back pain, debilitating scoliosis and emotional problems. At age 13, she had ten-inch steel “Harrington” rods placed in her back. The rods were meant to help contain and straighten the spinal column, but they also make sitting, standing and moving painful and difficult. Provancha stated “I fought my disabilities for years. I worked and took care of my family, but by 2007, I couldn’t take the pain any longer. I had to stop working.” Fortunately, Provancha worked enough to amass sufficient coverage to be eligible to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. However, when she left the workforce, she notes, “I quickly became one of the millions of Americans who must try to survive and battle health problems without health insurance.”

In 2011, after denials at both the initial and reconsideration levels, Provancha went to a hearing before a local disability judge. The judge ruled unfavorably in her case, holding that Provancha’s lack of treatment from an orthopedic specialist (although she had no health insurance) was one factor indicating that she was not suffering from disabling back pain. Provancha would not give up, and she appealed again to the Appeals Council in Falls Church, VA. The Appeals Council upheld the judge's decision and denied her as well. Provancha was at the end of her road, but “I wouldn’t give up because I couldn’t give up. Except for my family, I had nothing else.” Knowing she could not work, she sought legal representation from the Law Offices of Marasco & Nesselbush.

Partner Donna Nesselbush and Associate Attorney Joseph Wilson accepted the case. “My case and the outcome were very personal to me, and it was amazing and heartening to have someone believe in me and in my case. I couldn't believe they accepted it.”

Marasco & Nesselbush filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island on behalf of Provancha, detailing the reasons why Provancha could not work, why she was disabled and why the local judge's decision was unjust. Through lengthy written and oral arguments, Attorneys Nesselbush and Wilson averred that Provancha’s lack of health insurance and inability to obtain orthopedic treatment should not be used to deny her benefits. The attorneys also pointed out factual errors made by the judge. Finally, the attorneys were adamant that enough was enough; Provancha had waited many long years while her appeals wound their way through the Social Security maze. Provancha’s claim, they argued, should not be sent back for yet another Social Security proceeding; the case for disability benefits was clear. There was no additional medical evidence to shed light on her condition, and the attorneys pleaded for the court to simply reverse the local judge, issue a decision finding Mrs. Provancha disabled and order the Social Security Administration to pay her retroactive and ongoing disability benefits. And that is exactly what United States District Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. did.

“When I received the news of the decision I stood in disbelief and began to cry” said Maria Borino Provancha. “I couldn't believe I had finally won, after all these years it was finally over. I thank Marasco & Nesselbush from the bottom of my heart.”

Obtaining Social Security disability benefits has become increasingly difficult over the years, particularly in the State of Rhode Island. According to the most recent available data for 2012, the Rhode Island cadre of disability judges awards approximately 48% of the cases heard, while, for comparison, the cadre of Boston judges, only 50 miles away, awards 61%. Usually, if a federal District judge disagrees with a local disability judge, the Federal Judge or Magistrate will remand the case back to the same judge for a supplemental hearing. It is quite rare for a federal judge to outright reverse the decision of a local disability judge and order the payment of benefits.

While this case is atypical, it is evidence that perseverance pays off. For the truly disabled, there is great satisfaction in being approved for benefits that are desperately needed and well deserved. Maria Provancha is now able to end this chapter of pleading and poverty and begin the next chapter of her life with hope and the security of monthly disability benefits and health insurance.

About Marasco & Nesselbush
Marasco & Nesselbush is New England's leading and largest Social Security disability law firm, with offices throughout Rhode Island in Providence, Wakefield, Warwick and Woonsocket, offices in Massachusetts in Quincy and Lawrence and offices in New London, CT. For more information, please visit us on the web at http://www.M-N-Law.com.


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Donna Nesselbush

Erika Maisen
Marasco and Nesselbush LLP
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