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Does Having the Occasional “Good Day” Prove That My Mental Disorder Is Not a Disability?

IL disability lawyerPsychiatric disorders often manifest themselves through inconsistent symptoms. That is to say, a person can feel “fine” one day yet be totally incapable of leaving the house the next. Such inconsistency often leads Social Security disability officials to incorrectly conclude an applicant's medical disorder is not “severe” enough to justify an award of benefits.

Court Orders New Hearing After Social Security Official Disregards Testimony from Multiple Psychiatrists

Take this recent Illinois disability case, Nicole D. v. Saul. The plaintiff in this case applied for disability benefits more than five years ago. She suffers from a number of psychiatric disorders, including major depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At a disability hearing, the plaintiff presented expert opinions from three of her treating physicians. The first doctor, a psychiatrist, explained the plaintiff's mental disorders were “severe enough to meet or equal” Social Security's disability requirements. The psychiatrist based her findings on her extensive treatment of the plaintiff, which encompassed approximately 40 consultations between 2014 and 2016.

Despite this history, the administrative law judge (ALJ) assigned to the case only gave the psychiatrist's conclusions “little weight.” The ALJ similarly dismissed the views of two other psychiatrists who also treated the plaintiff. Not surprisingly, the ALJ went on to deny the plaintiff's application for disability benefits.

A federal magistrate, however, reviewed the ALJ's findings on appeal and determined a new hearing was warranted. The magistrate took issue with the ALJ's analysis, or lack thereof, of the two psychiatrists' conclusions. The main issue, the magistrate said, was that the ALJ “placed too much emphasis on records documenting some improvement in [the] Plaintiff's symptoms without fairly acknowledging her many relapses.”

For example, the plaintiff has bipolar disorder, which tends to be “episodic,” with symptoms that fluctuate “even under proper treatment.” So even if the treating psychiatrist noted the plaintiff seemed “normal” during a particular office visit, that does not mean the plaintiff's condition was fully under control or would not affect her ability to work. Indeed, the magistrate said it appeared the ALJ “did not understand this aspect of [the] Plaintiff's mental illness.”

The magistrate did not, however, find the plaintiff qualified for disability benefits. Rather, the court said the ALJ needed to conduct a proper assessment of the medical evidence. In particular, the ALJ should have provided a more “logical” explanation for dismissing the views of the treating psychiatrists. The magistrate said if the ALJ could not do this following a second hearing, then the plaintiff should be considered “disabled” under Social Security regulations.

Speak with a Cook County Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

In some respects, it is much easier to document and prove a physical disability than a mental disorder. But as a matter of law, both types of impairments should be treated the same when it comes to assessing a person's eligibility for Social Security benefits. An experienced Chicago disability attorney can assist you in preparing and presenting your case to Social Security. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team.




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