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Social Security disability benefits, Cook County disability benefits lawyer, disability denials, traumatic brain injury, seizure disorderThere are some injuries that are so severe you would assume they automatically qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits. Unfortunately, that is not how the system works. Even in cases where an applicant has clearly sustained a medical injury that prevents him or her from working, Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) will look for any reason they can find to declare the person not disabled.

Seventh Circuit Issues Rare Order Directly Awarding Disability Benefits

Recently, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago addressed a particularly outrageous case of “disability denial” on the part of Social Security. The plaintiff in this lawsuit fell down a flight of stairs 18 years ago and sustained a “traumatic brain injury” in the process. More than a decade later, he sought disability benefits.

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deny disability claim, disability claim, Cook County disability benefits lawyer, Illinois disability cases, disability benefits applicationSocial Security often adopts a “blame the victim” approach when it comes to reviewing applications for disability benefits. A common tactic is to cite an applicant's “conservative treatment” history. In other words, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) will point to an applicant's decision not to seek a particularly aggressive form of medical care as “proof” that his or her impairment is not really that serious, and therefore not a disability.

Social Security Must “Explore the Claimant's Reasons for the Lack of Medical Care

The flaw in this line of reasoning is that there are plenty of legitimate reasons why a person with a serious mental or physical disability may not seek treatment as often, or as aggressively, as the ALJ might prefer. In many cases it simply comes down to a lack of money. Disability applicants are, by definition, people who are not presently working. Without any income or employer-sponsored health insurance, they are simply unable to afford treatment.

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disability cases, Chicago SSID lawyer, disability claim, Chicago Social Security lawyer, disability applicantMost disability cases involve a person who requires ongoing medical care from one or more highly trained specialists. When it comes to actually assessing your claim for benefits, however, Social Security officials often prefer to rely on the opinions of general practitioners whose only “specialty” is their understanding of disability regulations. In most cases, these “consulting” doctors do not even bother to review all of the disability applicant's medical records. Instead, their primary job is supplying an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the answers they want to hear—namely, that the applicant’s impairments are not that serious and do not constitute a legal disability.

Court Orders New Hearing After Social Security Ignores Credible Medical Testimony

Fortunately, federal judges in Illinois understand the law better than Social Security. Consider this recent decision from a magistrate judge, who ordered Social Security to conduct a new disability hearing for a 63-year-old former crane operator, who has been unable to work since 2013 due to severe back problems. At a hearing before a Social Security ALJ, the applicant presented an extensive medical history, including the expert opinions of his treating physician and an orthopedic surgeon, both of whom found he was medically incapable of working.

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