Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 56

THE PRO BONO EFFEC T

Tipping the Scales
in a Benefits Case

''

By Stacy Julien

E

"She couldn't go into cold places. Her skin was
irritated, and her hands were painful to touch,"
says Anderson's pro bono attorney Danielle
Pfifferling, a patent litigation associate at
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett
& Dunner, LLP who specializes in pharma-
ceuticals and biotechnology.
Anderson was eventually diagnosed with
several conditions, including scleroderma,
a connective tissue disorder that leads to
Raynaud's phenomenon, or decreased blood
flow resulting in numbness and discoloration
of the fingers and/or toes after exposure
to cold temperatures or emotional events. She
was also diagnosed with clinical depression.
A mother of two children, Anderson was living
on her own before her medical conditions
changed everything. She went from doing it
all to not being able to manage day-to-day
chores like cooking. She couldn't drive and used
MetroAccess to get around. Soon, Anderson
had to move in with her mother for help.
"She gave up a lot of her freedom and was in
constant pain. That put her in a depressive
state," says Pfifferling, also a mother, with three
young children.
If Anderson was unable to accomplish certain
tasks for herself, she certainly found it hard to
perform her responsibilities as a home health
aide. This meant she didn't have an income to
take care of her family. For financial support, she

56 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

We didn't uncover anything.
It was all there. But they
weren't going to look
through all those documents
and see it the way we did.

Finnegan

lla Anderson (real name
withheld for confidentiality
reasons) loved her job as a
home health aide, helping patients
with their day-to-day household
responsibilities - that is, until
she began experiencing problems
with her hands.

DANIELLE PFIFFERLING
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow,
Garrett & Dunner, LLP
filed for Social Security disability benefits, but
her application was denied. She filed a request
for a reconsideration, and it was also denied.
When Anderson's case found its way to the D.C.
Bar Pro Bono Center, Pfifferling jumped at the
opportunity to take on her first-ever disability
benefits case. Barbara Butterworth, Finnegan's
litigation mentor who leads the firm's pro bono
program, was there to guide her.
"This was Danielle's first Social Security case. It's
my job to guide the attorneys in strategy so they
don't jump into the deep end alone. It helps to
have someone at the firm to provide that frontline supervision for you," Butterworth says.
Pfifferling met Anderson in May 2016 to start
preparing a brief. The brief, which included
pictures of Anderson's hands, was filed in June
2017. What this case had in its favor, Pfifferling
learned, was that Anderson kept detailed
medical records and documentation of the
events.
"It was unique because she had about 2,000
pages of medical records. It was a lot to go
through. I looked at it like a jigsaw puzzle. The
paperwork clearly showed that she had a

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020

disability that fit within the guidelines for
approval. It was obvious," Pfifferling says.
After organizing the paperwork, Pfifferling could
see what the Social Security Administration
didn't. "I highlighted key phrases to show the
big picture. We didn't uncover anything. It was
all there. But they weren't going to look through
all those documents and see it the way we did."
At Anderson's hearing in February 2018, it didn't
take long for the judge to reach a decision. With
her hand wrapped in gauze and covered by a
white tube sock, the young mom was granted
disability on the spot.
"She was very relieved to start getting the paychecks and also back pay," Pfifferling says. "This
was very emotional for her. Every time I met
with her, she would cry at some point."
Butterworth says she was proud of Pfifferling's
work on the case, in particular her thorough
brief. "The advocacy really occurred in the brief
that Danielle wrote. We're not sure what tipped
the scales, but we were able to help the client.
The severity of the client's symptoms and pain
was painful to witness, and the grace with which
she managed it was really something to see."



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Family Law Assistance Network feature
An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Qualified Immunity feature
Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Family Law Assistance Network feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 12
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - An Avalanche of Evictions feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Partnerships Forged in Crisis feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Help for Pro Se Litigants Feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Qualified Immunity feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 32
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking Legal Support to the Streets feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 37
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Turning off the White Noise of Systemic Racism
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Taking the Stand Situational Principles Aren't Really Principles
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - A. Benjamin Spencer
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Member Spotlight - Amber Harding
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 50
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 54
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 57
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 58
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 59
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 60
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 61
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 62
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 63
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 64
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 65
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 66
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - 67
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2020 - Cover4
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