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Social Security Is Not Allowed to Selectively Reject Expert Opinions

Posted on in Social Security Disability

Chicago Social Security Disability AttorneySocial Security Disability Insurance claims are frequently rejected on the first attempt, not because an applicant fails to present evidence that he or she has a disability and is medically unable to work, but because Social Security officials simply ignore that evidence. Federal courts frequently criticize Social Security for “cherry picking” evidence designed to support a predetermined outcome—i.e., a decision denying the applicant’s claim for disability benefits. But no matter how often Social Security is called out for this illegal behavior, it does not seem to deter them.

Judge Criticizes Social Security Official’s “Nonsensical” Reasons for Denying Disability Claim

Consider a recent disability case from here in Illinois. The applicant was a woman currently in her early 50s. She previously worked in a plastics factory. In 2010 she injured her back and was laid off a few months later. The applicant had also suffered from a series of mental health issues that predated her back injury.

The applicant eventually sought disability benefits alleging the date of her back injury as the onset date. Before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the applicant presented an assessment prepared by her rehabilitation counselor. The counselor stated that, based on his review of the applicant’s case history, she was “unable to perform any employment for which a reasonably stable market exists.” A functional capacity exam performed as part of the disability evaluation process confirmed that due to her physical limitations the applicant “was capable of work at the sedentary exertional level, but that she could not sustain sedentary work for an 8 hour day, 5 days a week.”

The Social Security ALJ, however, held the applicant was capable of full-time sedentary work and denied the claim for disability benefits. The ALJ disregarded the evidence described above and instead relied on a vocational expert who testified at the hearing that—under a hypothetical scenario—a person with the applicant’s limitations should be able to perform sedentary jobs such as a “hand bander, weight tester, and surveillance system monitor.”

On appeal, a federal magistrate reversed the ALJ and ordered Social Security to reconsider the applicant’s case. The magistrate said the ALJ’s reasons for ignoring the evidence supporting the applicant’s disability claim were “nonsensical.” The ALJ held, for instance, that the rehabilitation counselor’s opinion the applicant could not work was irrelevant because that was a decision “reserved” to the judgment of Social Security. However, the magistrate noted the ALJ accepted the vocational expert’s opinion that the applicant was capable of work. The magistrate said it was against the law for the ALJ to accept one doctor’s opinion “for that reason while not applying the same rule to” another doctor.

An Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Can Help

This is the latest in a long line of cases where Social Security has abdicated its legal duty to impartially assess disability claims based on the medical evidence. This is why you should never attempt to deal with Social Security on your own. If you need assistance from a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, right away.



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