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Will Social Security Second-Guess My Decision to Decline a Surgical Procedure?

 Posted on January 26, 2018 in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

Chicago disability benefits lawyer, decline a surgical procedure, disability claim, disability cases, back impairmentsIn Social Security disability hearings, administrative law judges often go out of their way to challenge an applicant's credibility. Although the Social Security Administration recently revised its guidelines on this point, the fact remains that every decision you make regarding your healthcare will be second-guessed in an effort to undermine your disability claim. Still, this does not mean that an ALJ can simply ignore your symptoms.

Agency Failed to Properly Weigh Disability Applicant's Credibility

Consider this ongoing disability case in Illinois. The plaintiff first applied for disability nearly six years ago. She suffers from a number of crippling back impairments. After a hearing in 2014, an ALJ denied the plaintiff's claim for disability, which the plaintiff then challenged in court.

A federal magistrate judge agreed with the plaintiff that she was, at a minimum, entitled to a new hearing. One key problem the magistrate identified was that the ALJ seemed to question the plaintiff's credibility with respect to the treatment of her back problems. Indeed, the ALJ concluded the plaintiff's treatment was “sporadic and conservative,” indicating her symptoms were not that serious.

But the magistrate countered the ALJ neglected to mention that the applicant “had financial troubles and no access to a car,” which limited her access to treatment. The magistrate and the ALJ also differed as to the relevance of the plaintiff's decision not to undergo an elective back surgery. Again, the ALJ saw this as proof the plaintiff's impairment was not that severe. The magistrate said the plaintiff herself testified she “declined” the procedure “because she felt surgery had not worked for her in the past.” The ALJ was required to address to this explanation yet failed to do so.

The magistrate also pointed to an all-too-common problem in disability cases, which is ALJs using an applicant's “daily activities,” such as performing simple household chores, as proof they are medically capable of holding down a full-time job. Federal courts in Illinois have repeatedly told Social Security not to “put too much emphasis” on such activities, yet ALJs continue to do so.

Finally, the magistrate reminded Social Security that when conducting a new hearing on the plaintiff's disability claim, the agency must perform a proper vocational analysis. That is to say, when assessing the types of work the plaintiff might be qualified to perform in spite of her back impairments, the ALJ must ensure any such estimate is supported by a “valid explanation” regarding the actual number of jobs available,

Get Help and Advice From an Illinois Social Security Attorney

It is difficult enough living with a crippling physical or mental impairment without having to justify every one of your treatment decisions to a Social Security bureaucrat. This is why you should seek the help and advice of a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer who knows how to deal with Social Security. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation today.



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