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Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Security Disability Benefits

Posted by on in Social Security Disability

generalized anxiety disorder,  Cook County Social Security attorney, denied disability claim, disability applicant, major depressive disorderDealing with anxiety and doubt is common. However, for some people, anxiety is an all-consuming fear that affects their ability to function in society. Known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), this type of illness is a serious mental health impairment and may qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits.

ALJ Improperly Holds Applicant's Inability to Afford Mental Health Treatment Against Her

Unfortunately, there is often a stigma associated with GAD and similar mental health disorders that can lead Social Security officials to unfairly reject disability claims. Indeed, as one recent Illinois case illustrates, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) may misinterpret a disability applicant's spotty employment history as “proof” that he or she is actually capable of working, without stopping to consider the overall impact of his or her anxiety disorder.

In this case, the female plaintiff suffers from GAD and major depressive disorder. The plaintiff's treating psychologist testified before the Social Security ALJ that the plaintiff was “unable” to complete a normal workday or “sustain an ordinary routine without special supervision” due to her GAD. In fact, the plaintiff "had no useful ability to maintain regular attendance and be punctual,” and frequently reacted to even minimum stress by losing her temper and “becoming verbally hostile or upset.”

The ALJ acknowledged the plaintiff's mental impairments but declared her testimony “regarding the severity of her allegations to be less than credible.” Specifically, the ALJ cited the plaintiff's failure to receive any mental health treatment until the exams performed by the psychiatrist. Furthermore, her own work history—she worked in a convenience store “for several days” and “had been working as a bartender”—suggested she could hold down a job. On this basis the ALJ denied the plaintiff's claim for disability benefits.

However, on appeal, a federal magistrate held the ALJ's analysis was “patently erroneous” and justified returning the case to Social Security for a new hearing. First, the magistrate noted the applicant's “lack of mental health treatment history” was due to the fact she could not afford treatment. Indeed, the plaintiff's medical record specifically mentioned this fact. Additionally, Social Security regulations clearly state the agency may not “draw any inferences” against a disability applicant who fails to seek treatment without first considering their ability to afford such care.

Second, the magistrate said the ALJ drew the wrong conclusions from the plaintiff's limited work history. If anything, the magistrate said this only bolstered her case. For example, the plaintiff quit her convenience store job after just two days “because the customers scared her and made her fear for her safety.” Moreover, there was also no record of her working as a bartender for money, contrary to the ALJ's “logical leap.”

Speak with a Chicago Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

It is terrible to suffer from GAD or a similar mental impairment that prevents you from fully functioning within society. Social Security officials should not attempt to use your condition against you in making a disability determination. If you need assistance from a qualified Cook County Social Security attorney in handling a disability claim, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today.


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