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Mental Disorders May Entitle You to Social Security Disability Benefits

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

mental disorder, Chicago Social Security Disability lawyerMany Americans suffer from personality disorders or other psychological impairments that may affect their ability to work. In some cases these disorders, combined with other factors, may be serious enough to justify a person receiving Social Security Disability insurance benefits. Unfortunately, Social Security officials often disregard evidence pertaining to mental disorders and deny benefit claims without just cause.

Social Security Fails to Consider Evidence of Social Impairment

For example, an Illinois magistrate judge recently ordered the Social Security Administration to reconsider the application of a disability applicant who presented evidence he suffered from severe social impairment due to mental disorders. Specifically, a 2010 psychiatric evaluation diagnosed the applicant with “paranoia, schizoaffective bipolar disorder, and opiate dependence.” Based on this, the evaluation concluded the applicant was “socially impaired” in a number of areas.

The applicant underwent several additional psychiatric evaluations with different physicians between 2010 and 2012. On most of these occasions, the applicant received a score based on the “Global Assessment of Functioning,” (GAF) a numeric scale used to rate a person's psychological functioning subjectively. Although the American Psychiatric Association replaced the GAR in 2013, it is still used as evidence in pre-2013 Social Security Disability cases, which often take many years to decide. The applicant here received a GAR score of 30 during his initial 2010 evaluation, which indicated a “serious impairment in communication or judgment...or inability to function in almost all areas,” including the ability to hold down a job.

While the administrative law judge who reviewed the applicant's claim agreed he suffered a severe impairment due to “personality disorder,” as well as limited vision in his right eye and a “history of substance addiction,” that was insufficient to justify Social Security Disability benefits. In particular, the ALJ discounted the applicant's credibility because “toxicology testing in 2010 showed that [the applicant] was still using opiates and cocaine on occasion.” The ALJ also discounted the 2010 psychiatric evaluation, instead relying on a later examination by a state agency mental health consultant who opined the applicant “had no impairment” meeting Social Security's disability threshold.

On appeal, the magistrate said the ALJ's reasoning was “inadequate” and amounted to little more than “boilerplate” language commonly used when rejecting disability applicants. The magistrate said the ALJ basically accepted the state agency's opinions as fact while disregarding “most of the evidence from [the applicant's] treating physicians,” including a history of GAF scores indicating serious mental impairment. While the GAF scores do not automatically prove the applicant is disabled, the magistrate said Social Security must still consider such information together with “all of the evidence essential to creating a complete picture of [the applicant's] mental health.”

Get Help from Our Social Security Attorneys

If you are suffering from psychiatric problems serious enough to prevent you from working or functioning normally, it is important you speak with a qualified Chicago Social Security Disability attorney who can help assess your case and deal with Social Security officials. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC today if you would like to speak with an attorney right away.



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