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How Many Times Is Social Security Allowed to Ignore Medical Evidence?

IL disability lawyerWhen a federal court determines Social Security has failed to properly weigh medical evidence in a disability case, the normal course of action is to remand–return–the case to the agency for a new hearing. But what happens when Social Security ignores the court's instructions? Indeed, what happens when the same disability case is brought to court multiple times?

Magistrate: ALJ Ignored Disability Applicant's Pain During Hearing

This scenario recently played out before an Illinois federal magistrate judge. This particular case, Kimberly M. v. Saul, involves a woman who has not worked in nearly 15 years. The plaintiff is in her mid-50s and stopped working in 2005 due to ongoing complications from a back injury. Despite surgery in 2016, the plaintiff continues to experience “significant pain in her spine, right hip, buttock and leg,” according to the magistrate's opinion.

Unfortunately, the plaintiff's difficulties with the disability insurance system have proved just as persistent as her back pain. By the time of the magistrate's order in April 2020, the plaintiff had been through three separate hearings at Social Security. Each time, an administrative law judge (ALJ) determined the plaintiff did not meet the legal requirements for disability benefits. And each time, the court found Social Security ignored key medical evidence.

In all three hearings, the magistrate observed, the ALJ essentially disregarded evidence from the plaintiff's treating physician. At the most recent hearing, the magistrate said the ALJ “gave lip service to the importance of the treating physician's opinion, but did not follow the applicable standards in her evaluation.” Instead of fully crediting the testimony of a doctor who has treated the plaintiff's pain on a monthly basis for more than 10 years, the ALJ instead decided to favor the views of “non-treating experts with no special expertise in pain management.”

The magistrate was especially disturbed by the fact the ALJ ignored the clear difficulties the plaintiff experienced during the hearing. The ALJ believed the fact the plaintiff remained seated for 90 minutes contradicted the treating physician's view that the plaintiff “could not sustain a position for more than 15 minutes.” But as the plaintiff explained, she was forced to “keep moving positions” because her legs were going numb. Indeed, to remain sitting as long as she did caused “considerable pain,” which the ALJ simply ignored.

Given the long history of this case, the magistrate said it was unnecessary to conduct a fourth hearing to determine if the plaintiff was entitled to disability benefits. She clearly was. So the magistrate ordered a hearing solely on the question of the amount of said benefits.

Speak with an Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Today

While this case is something of an outlier, it does illustrate the lengths Social Security may go to avoid paying a legitimate disability claim. It is therefore critical you work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who will fight for you at every stage of the process. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.




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