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Social Security Can No Longer Use “Credibility” to Deny Disability Benefits

 Posted on June 21, 2016 in Denied Social Security Benefits

Chicago Social Security Disability Benefits AttorneyThe federal government recently issued revised guidelines for Social Security Disability insurance cases. Historically, Social Security instructed its administrative law judges (ALJs) to assess a disability applicant’s “credibility” in evaluating his or her symptoms. This has frequently led to ALJs disregarding medical evidence of a disability simply because they chose not to believe (or simply did not like) the applicant.

However, under a new Policy Interpretation Ruling that took effect in March, Social Security is now directing ALJs to “limit their evaluation to the [applicant’s] statements about his or her symptoms and the evidence in the record that is relevant to the individual's impairments.” In other words, the ALJ should no longer use a disability evaluation to “assess an individual’s overall character or truthfulness in the manner typical during an adversarial court litigation.” The ALJ’s sole function is to assess the quality of the medical evidence.

Judge Orders New Disability Hearing for Multiple Sclerosis Patient

The new policy is already having an impact in the courts. For example, a federal magistrate in Illinois recently ordered Social Security to reconsider a disability applicant’s claim in light of the new rules. The applicant was a man suffering from multiple sclerosis. A Social Security ALJ denied the applicant’s claim, citing among other reasons the testimony of a state agency physician who never personally examined the applicant but nonetheless concluded that he was not significantly limited in his ability to work. The ALJ also made multiple findings discounting the applicant’s credibility with respect to his testimony about his symptoms.

On appeal, the magistrate held the ALJ failed to consider all of the relevant medical evidence presented by the applicant. Specifically, the state agency physician reviewed the applicant’s medical records before he received significant treatment from his own doctors. The ALJ had a legal duty, the magistrate said, to submit this new evidence to the state agency physician for reevaluation before rendering a decision. Instead, the ALJ simply declared the additional evidence supported the state doctor’s previous conclusion. The magistrate said the applicant was entitled to a new hearing at which all of the medical evidence could be properly considered.

Additionally, the magistrate said that Social Security should reevaluate the applicant’s claim in light of the new policy eliminating “credibility” as a valid consideration. Accordingly, the magistrate did not bother to assess the ALJ’s findings with respect to the applicant’s credibility, as it is no longer considered relevant. On remand, the ALJ will have to “re-evaluate the effects of Claimant's symptoms” based on the totality of the medical evidence.

Get Help From a Chicago Social Security Disability Attorney

Even with the new policy, Social Security officials are unlikely to make things easier for disability applicants. Applying for disability benefits often requires a lengthy legal process. An experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer is, therefore, essential. If you need assistance with a Social Security claim, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, right away.




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