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What Happens When Social Security Ignores Medical Evidence?

 Posted on January 19, 2016 in Denied Social Security Benefits

medial evidence, Chicago Social Security Disability AttorneyIn assessing a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, it is essential for agency officials to see the most up-to-date information about a claimant's medical condition. A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) may be quick to seize on an outdated medical report as justification for denying benefits. In such cases, the applicant has every right to seek a new hearing that takes into account his or her entire medical history.

Social Security Incorrectly Relies on 10-Year-Old MRI in Denying Benefits

Here is a recent example from right here in Illinois. The applicant in this case was a 55-year-old woman who suffers from back pain, anxiety, and depression, among other ailments. The applicant first filed for Social Security Disability benefits in 2006. She received a hearing before an ALJ in 2008. The ALJ denied the claim, and in doing so largely discredited or ignored medical evidence presented by two physicians who had treated the applicant.

An internal Social Security appeal determined the ALJ failed to properly consider the testimony of the two doctors as well as other medical evidence. The applicant, therefore, received a second hearing in 2010. Unfortunately, the ALJ again denied the applicant's claim.

This time, the ALJ seized upon the testimony of two other physicians—not the same two who testified during the first hearing—in holding the applicant's back pain and psychiatric impairments did not constitute disabilities. With respect to the issue of the applicant's back pain, one of these new expert witnesses reviewed an MRI taken in 2001—nearly 10 years before the hearing—and offered a very tentative opinion about the scope of the alleged impairment. Indeed, the doctor told the ALJ “the evidence was difficult to analyze because the MRIs on file were 'so old.'” Nevertheless, the ALJ found this testimony credible.

On appeal, a federal magistrate held the ALJ's credibility analysis was “erroneous.” The ALJ ignored “several hundred pages of medical evidence” offered by the claimant and “opting instead to rely entirely on the testimony and interpretations of” this new doctor who was “not entirely confident in his own analysis.” The magistrate further noted the claimant's back condition may “get worse over time,” which further discredits the value of a single expert's testimony based on a ten-year old MRI. For this and other reasons, the magistrate ruled the claimant was entitled to a third hearing and urged Social Security “to assign a different ALJ” to the case.

Get Help from a Chicago Disability Lawyer

It is unfortunate that the applicant in the case above will have to endure three separate hearings before Social Security. But this illustrates the legal difficulties faced by many people in similar positions. Even when there is overwhelming medical evidence supporting a disability claim, a stubborn ALJ can still find reasons to deny benefits. That is why you should never apply for disability benefits without the assistance of an experienced Chicago Social Security Disability attorney who understands the system and how to ensure your interests are zealously represented. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need to speak with a lawyer right away.



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