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How Many Times Will Social Security Make Me Attend a Hearing?

 Posted on April 20, 2018 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

Chicago disability benefits attorney, disability benefits application, disability hearings, disability review process, disability disputeIt often takes multiple rounds of hearings and appeals before Social Security finally grants your application for disability benefits. This extended process is generally the result of agency officials who simply refuse to follow the law—even when they are specifically instructed to do so by a reviewing court. Unfortunately, the time it takes for Social Security to “get it right” is time you are left faced with unpaid bills and no income.

Magistrate Orders Fourth Hearing in Eight-Year-Old Disability Dispute

One of the more egregious cases of Social Security delay we have seen recently is from right here in Illinois. The plaintiff has already had three separate disability hearings before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ). But because of the ALJ's failures to follow previous remand instructions, a federal magistrate was compelled to order a fourth hearing.

The plaintiff initially applied for disability benefits in 2009, nearly nine years ago. Following an initial hearing, an ALJ denied the plaintiff's application in 2012. Social Security's internal Appeals Council remanded this first decision for reconsideration in 2013, and the ALJ held a second hearing in 2014.

The second hearing yielded a partial victory. This time the ALJ said the plaintiff was disabled, but only for a period of time between 2009 and 2011. The plaintiff appealed this second ruling, and once again the Appeals Council remanded. Specifically, the Appeals Council said the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the medical evidence offered by the plaintiff's treating physician, as well as a non-examining doctor who reviewed the relevant medical records.

A new ALJ held a third hearing in 2016. Like the prior judge, the new ALJ held the plaintiff was not disabled after 2011. This time the Appeals Council accepted the ALJ's decision and declined to remand the case again. The plaintiff then sought review of what was now Social Security's “final” decision in federal court.

In an opinion issued on April 13 of this year, a federal magistrate held the second ALJ failed to follow the remand instructions from the Appeals Council. That is to say, the ALJ failed to “adequately discuss” the medical testimony of the two physicians, both of whom testified as to the functional limits of the plaintiff in a workplace setting. Indeed, the magistrate noted the new ALJ continued to rely on opinions that “directly contradict” the views of the two physicians without providing an adequate explanation.

Speak with a Cook County Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

The magistrate noted that all disability applicants are “entitled to an orderly and timely review process, and to assume that an ALJ will follow the direction of the [Appeals Council] on remand rather than simply ignore it.” That said, the plaintiff here was “not entitled to a favorable decision,” even though she has already waited more than eight years for Social Security to follow the law.

Exceptional cases like this illustrate the critical importance of working with an experienced Chicago disability benefits attorney who understands Social Security's complex regulations and appeals process. If you are having difficulty with your disability claim and need immediate assistance, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC.



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