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Can I Qualify for Disability Benefits Even If My Doctors Don't Know Exactly What Is Wrong With Me?

IL disability lawyerAs advanced as medical technology is, it is not perfect. There are many people who suffer physical or mental ailments with no clear cause. Even trained doctors may look at the same patient presenting the same symptoms and reach different conclusions. But how does Social Security deal with such lack of consensus when assessing disability benefit applications.

Magistrate Orders New Disability Hearing After ALJ Failed to Consult Any Medical Experts

As is often the case with Social Security, their first instinct is often to declare the applicant is not disabled. In some situations, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) may simply make guesses about the applicant's actual medical condition. Such an approach is not only unscientific, but it also goes against how the law is supposed to work in this area.

A recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois offers a helpful illustration. In this case, a 43-year-old woman applied for disability benefits four years ago. In her application, the plaintiff described a variety of impairments that have rendered her unable to return to full-time work.

One such impairment revolves around the plaintiff's chronic fatigue. Before a Social Security ALJ, the plaintiff testified she is not able to “sit or stand too long,” as she tires quickly and requires “five to six naps every day.” In some cases, these naps last up to four hours. Numerous doctors who examined the plaintiff were unable to agree on the exact cause of this chronic fatigue. Three possible causes identified were thyroid problems, degenerative disc disease, and scleroderma (a skin disorder).

No medical expert testified at the plaintiff's hearing. The ALJ, therefore, decided to offer his own “rationales” explaining the plaintiff's medical condition. These rationales basically led the ALJ to conclude the plaintiff's testimony about her chronic fatigue lacked credibility. And on that basis, the ALJ denied the plaintiff's application for disability benefits.

On appeal, the magistrate held the ALJ's approach of offering his own explanations, without actually considering the “objective evidence,” violated Social Security regulations. As noted above, the ALJ did not hear testimony from any medical expert in this case. And the ALJ's decision “never squarely addressed how the objective evidence was relevant to specific symptoms, such as fatigue.” As the magistrate explained, he was therefore forced to “make educated guesses about what the ALJ believed the objective evidence was indicating.”

The magistrate said the plaintiff was therefore entitled to a new disability hearing, one at which the ALJ should seek the “help of a medical expert.”

Speak with a Chicago Social Security Disability Attorney Today

Just because your doctors cannot agree on what may be wrong with you, that does not mean you are “faking” symptoms or exaggerating your medical condition. But if you need help convincing Social Security of that, it is best to consult with a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer. Call Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation today.




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