33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 1130, Chicago, IL 60602

5 Convenient Locations

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Youtube


call us312-999-0999fax312-999-8999

Does Cooperating With a Psychologist Mean I'm Mentally Competent to Work Full Time?

 Posted on December 08, 2017 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

Social Security disability benefits, disability applicants, mental health disorders, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, legally disabledIllinois residents with serious mental health disorders are often rejected for Social Security disability benefits because agency officials simply refuse to take such conditions seriously. Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) are especially prone to accusing disability applicants of fabricating or exaggerating mental health symptoms—and even dismissing expert medical opinions supporting such claims.

But ALJs are not doctors. Their role is to weigh and assess the medical evidence presented. It is not to substitute their own subjective judgment when they deem it convenient.

Court Orders Social Security to Reconsider Disability Case

Recently, a federal magistrate had to remind Social Security of this. In this case, a disability applicant suffering from serious mental health problems challenged an ALJ's determination that he was not legally disabled. Without ruling on the merits of the underlying application, the magistrate said the ALJ's reasons for rejecting the plaintiff's claims were insufficient and ordered a new hearing.

During the previous hearing, the ALJ received medical records of two treatment sessions between the plaintiff and a state-approved psychologist. After speaking at length with the plaintiff, the psychologist diagnosed him with a number of mental conditions, including a “cognitive disorder” and “personality disorder with antisocial features.” The doctor further explained that, in his expert opinion, the plaintiff “would have marked limitations in his ability to interact appropriately with the public, supervisors, and co-workers and to respond appropriately to usual work situations.”

The ALJ discounted these conclusions. For one thing, the ALJ said they were “largely based” on the plaintiff's own subjective complaints regarding his mental problems. In addition, the ALJ said the plaintiff “was cooperative during his mental status exams” with the doctor, which indicated he was capable of social functioning in a work environment.

But the magistrate said the ALJ was jumping to unsupported conclusions. On the first point, there was nothing wrong with the doctor “factoring” the plaintiff's subjective complaints into his diagnosis. Indeed, it would be impossible to assess a patient's mental disorders otherwise.

As for the plaintiff's ability to cooperate with the doctor during his clinical examinations, the magistrate said that does not necessarily “translate into an ability to interact appropriately with the public, supervisors, and co-workers” during a full workweek. It was the ALJ's job to bridge the gap between the plaintiff's behavior during “two forty-minute examinations” and the rigors of the workplace. The ALJ failed to do so, forcing the magistrate to return the case to Social Security for further proceedings.

Need Help Dealing With Social Security?

Unfortunately, even when cases like these are remanded, it simply means more delays for disability applicants. This is why having an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer on your side is critical in ultimately succeeding before Social Security. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today at 312-999-0999 to schedule a consultation today. We will not collect any fees or costs unless we win.


Navarro v. Berryhill, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Nov. 29, 2017.

Share this post:

You are not alone. Call now for a FREE consultation 312-999-0999

Unable to travel to my office? No problem! No office visit required.

dupage county bar association Chicago abr association nosscr Super Lawyer
Back to Top