Sex Trafficking Victim Wins Appeal for Disability Benefits and Vacatur of Criminal Convictions

August 15, 2014

Cleary Gottlieb won an appeal to the Social Security Administration for disability benefits for pro bono client Ms. B. Ms. B. was trafficked at the age of 14 and remained with her brutally violent trafficker for over a decade. Ms. B. originally applied for disability benefits in July 2012 and was denied. On appeal, Cleary Gottlieb submitted the affidavit of Dr. BJ Cling, a forensic psychologist, who diagnosed Ms. B. with severe PTSD based on her previous trafficking experience. In their decision on appeal, the SSA judge granted Ms. B. a fully favorable decision and awarded her current and retroactive benefits back to 2011.

In their decision, the SSA judge cited the diagnosis of Dr. Cling as the closest match with Ms. B’s mental health history, giving less weight to the opinion of the State agency psychologist whose report was relied upon during Ms. B’s initial application and who, it was found, had no knowledge of Ms. B’s history as a trafficking victim.

Ms. B. requested a hearing on the denial of her application in November 2012. Cleary Gottlieb filed a pre-hearing brief for Ms. B. in February 2014 and represented Ms. B. at her hearing before the SSA judge in March 2014.

Cleary Gottlieb also represented Ms. B. in motions to vacate her prostitution-related convictions. The motions were granted in Kings County Supreme Court on March 21 and in Queens County Supreme Court on August 15.