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Can I Get Disability Benefits if I Am in Prison?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

disability benefits, Chicago Social Security disability attorney, mental illness, prison benefits, disability applicantThousands of Illinois residents are presently in jail. According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, there are more than 44,000 state prisoners currently serving sentences. Although inmates are obviously unable to work while incarcerated, that does not qualify them for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. In fact, if you were awarded disability prior to beginning your sentence, your benefits will be suspended as long as you remain in jail.

Social Security Ignored Evidence of Prisoner's Mental Illness

Of course, you are still free to seek disability benefits for any period during which you are unable to work and not in prison. Unfortunately, given Social Security's hostility to law-abiding disability applicants, it should come as no surprise the agency is often quick to dismiss cases brought by current and former inmates.

Consider this recent Illinois disability case. The plaintiff in this case is presently incarcerated in a state prison in Galesburg, Illinois. He nevertheless applied for disability benefits, alleging he was eligible for benefits during a period starting in August 2011 and ending with his incarceration the following April.

The plaintiff suffers from a number of mental impairments, including depression, antisocial personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Following a formal hearing on his disability claim, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that in spite of the plaintiff's condition, he could still perform a “full range of work at all exertional levels” with only minor restrictions during the relevant 2011-2012 period. Accordingly, the ALJ denied the plaintiff disability benefits for those months.

But a federal magistrate said the ALJ's findings were “flawed” and inconsistent with the plaintiff's medical records. The ALJ maintained the medical evidence did not “support the degree of mental limitations alleged” by the plaintiff. But according to the magistrate, the plaintiff was diagnosed by a prison psychiatrist and has received “continued psychiatric treatment with psychotropic medications” during his incarceration.

Indeed, the plaintiff is not simply depressed. He also has psychotic hallucinations. The ALJ tried to dismiss this as “stray diagnoses” that did not indicate a genuine mental disability. The magistrate, in contrast, said it was evidence of “an underlying impairment of major depressive disorder with psychotic features.” And even though some of the plaintiff's hallucinations occurred prior to August 2011, the magistrate said the ALJ must still consider it as evidence of the plaintiff's history of mental illness. While the magistrate did not rule the plaintiff was in fact legally disabled, she said the ALJ must conduct a new hearing and give proper consideration to the entire medical record.

Get Help From a Chicago Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

It is far too easy for Social Security to ignore evidence of serious mental disorders. This is where having an experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney at your side can make a critical difference. If you are unable to work due to a mental or physical impairment and need assistance in dealing with Social Security, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today.




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