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Can Social Security Deny Me Disability If I'm Too Injured to Understand My Own Limitations?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

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.

In the years between the accident and his application, the plaintiff “suffered at least four seizures” related to his original brain injury. The plaintiff's treating neurologist told Social Security that his patient suffered from “brain atrophy and asymmetry,” which rendered him “incapable of performing low-stress work.” The doctor also went out of his way to emphasize that the brain damage was so severe that the plaintiff could not recognize or appreciate the extent of his own injuries. Before a Social Security ALJ, a vocational expert confirmed that given the medical restrictions imposed by the treating physician, the plaintiff “could not do any full-time jobs.”

Yet the ALJ still held the plaintiff was not disabled. Somehow the judge—who is not a doctor—believed the plaintiff's “seizure disorder was well controlled,” and that the treating physician's restrictions were “inconsistent” with the plaintiff's own testimony regarding his limitations.

But this completely ignored the fact that the plaintiff's seizure disorder and associated brain damage limits his ability to understand the nature of his condition. As the Seventh Circuit explained in its opinion reversing the ALJ, the plaintiff's statement before the ALJ “actually corroborate” his doctor's diagnosis that he “was significantly limited yet did not recognize his limitations.”

Furthermore, the appeals court said the ALJ “misunderstood” the nature of the treating physician's restrictions. The doctor specified a number of work-related tasks that the plaintiff “should avoid.” The ALJ apparently took that to mean the plaintiff “was not physically capable of these activities,” which conflicted with the findings of the independent state-agency doctors who examined the plaintiff. But as the Court explained, there was no inconsistency—the treating physician imposed those restrictions in order to prevent future seizures.

Normally when an appeals court reverses an ALJ it sends the case back to Social Security for a new hearing. But in this case, the Seventh Circuit simply ordered Social Security to award the plaintiff disability benefits. The reason for this was simple: Had the ALJ given the treating physician's conclusions their “proper weight,” there was simply no question the applicant was unable to work, given the testimony of the vocational expert.

Contact a Chicago Social Security Disability Attorney Today

Cases like this illustrate how difficult Social Security can make things for disabled workers, even those suffering from a traumatic brain injury. If you need help pursuing a Social Security claim from a qualified Cook County disability benefits lawyer, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today.

Source:

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13151170488275640422

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