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Does Social Security Ignore Medical Evidence of Depression?

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

depression, Chicago Social Security Disability LawyerMajor depressive disorder, as this series of blogs has previously discussed in parts one and two, is a serious condition that can prevent a person from working. In severe cases such depression, together with other medical impairments, may qualify someone for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Unfortunately, many Social Security officials are quick to dismiss medical evidence of depression in their rush to deny an applicant's claim for disability benefits.

Social Security Ordered to Reconsider Depression-based Disability Claim

The following includes a recent example from here in Illinois. A 57-year-old woman applied for Social Security disability benefits, citing among other impairments major depressive disorder. Before Social Security, the applicant presented evidence from her therapist. After multiple treatment sessions, the therapist confirmed in her report that the applicant “suffered from major depressive disorder” and related impairments that “moderately impacted her social functioning, markedly restricted her daily living and her ability to maintain concentration, and caused three episodes of decompensation of extended duration.” The therapist concluded the applicant was not capable working a full-time job in a “competitive work setting.”

At a hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the applicant herself explained the consequences of her major depressive disorder. She said she “hurt all the time, fatigue, I feel so tired, and then, when I lay down, I can't sleep, I worry about everything.” Even with therapy and antidepressant medication, the applicant said she still experienced constant sensations “where I just feel total panic, and hopelessness.”

The ALJ ultimately denied the applicant's claim for disability benefits. The ALJ found the applicant and therapist's testimony lacked sufficient credibility. Instead, the ALJ leaned heavily on the testimony of a non-treating expert who reviewed the applicant's medical records and listened to her hearing testimony but did not personally examine her.

Following an appeal by the applicant, a federal judge ordered Social Security to reconsider her case. The judge said the ALJ improperly “cherry picked” evidence in an effort to discount the severity of the applicant's depression. The judge noted the ALJ “focused solely on the reports of stability and ignored the many complaints of persisting symptoms.” The ALJ also inferred, without any evidence according to the judge, that the therapist may have misdiagnosed the applicant's depression “out of sympathy” for her situation.

The judge explained that Social Security could still deny the applicant's disability claim after reconsideration. However, Social Security must give proper weight to the treating therapist's medical conclusions. The judge also said Social Security must reassess the credibility of the applicant's own testimony.

Get Help From a Chicago Social Security Disability Lawyer

Dealing with Social Security is rarely easy. This is especially true when you apply for disability benefits based on major depressive disorder or similar mental disorders. An experienced Chicago disability attorney can assist you at all stages of the process. Contact the offices of Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need to speak with someone about your case right away.



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