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Are Subjective Complaints Regarding My Symptoms Enough to Receive Disability Benefits?

IL disability lawyerIn a Social Security disability case, your own testimony regarding your symptoms will not be enough to secure an award of benefits. Your “subjective complaints,” as they are called in these cases, must be supported by medical evidence, such as a diagnosis from your treating physician. Absent such evidence, Social Security will deny your application.

Court Finds No Medical Evidence Disability Applicant Is Allergic to Electricity

A recent decision from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago, Atkins v. Saul, helps to illustrate the critical role that medical evidence plays in disability cases. The plaintiff in this case is an Indiana man who claimed he was disabled based on his “hypersensitivity to chemicals and electromagnetic fields.”

The plaintiff's family doctor conducted an examination. The doctor determined that while the plaintiff had a “very odd, flat affect”–i.e., diminished emotional expression–his results were otherwise normal. Later, this same doctor diagnosed the plaintiff with “acne and allergic rhinitis,” for which he prescribed medication. But the doctor explained that, contrary to the beliefs of the plaintiff and his family, he was not allergic to electricity and “all” chemicals.

A second doctor, however, told Social Security that the plaintiff “could not work due to a long-undiagnosed condition involving environmental allergies.” But as the Seventh Circuit noted in its opinion, none of the specialists who examined the plaintiff based on the second doctor's referrals could actually confirm any particular symptoms of said allergies. Similarly, two doctors retained as consultants during the disability review process could find anything physically wrong with the plaintiff.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Social Security denied the plaintiff's application for disability benefits. He appealed the agency's decision to the courts, which led to the Seventh Circuit's decision. The appeals court said there was simply “no objective evidence that any medically determinable impairment” was causing the symptoms the plaintiff complained about.

While Social Security cannot simply ignore a disability applicant's “subjective complaints” regarding their own symptoms, here the Seventh Circuit said the ALJ adequately explained his reasons–notably, the fact that several doctors examined the plaintiff and could not diagnose or observe any problem with him. Indeed, even though the plaintiff's second treating physician said he could not work due to “environmental allergies,” this opinion was also not supported by any objective medical evidence. Social Security was therefore entitled to give “little weight” to the doctor's conclusions.

Additionally, the Seventh Circuit said Social Security was not required to seek out additional opinions from an expert who “specialized in [the plaintiff's] alleged conditions.” It is true Social Security can “order additional consultative examinations if medical evidence about a claimed impairment is insufficient.” But in this case, the agency already “had an adequate record” to make its decision.

Speak with an Illinois Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

Disability cases require credible medical evidence, not merely subjective complaints. An experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney can assist you in developing and presenting a medical record in support of your case. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.




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