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Your Prescription Medications Can Help Prove Your Disability Claim

 Posted on February 02, 2016 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

prescription drugs, Illinois social security disability attorneyAn often overlooked issue when assessing an application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is the claimant's history of prescription medication use. A disabled individual may need to take several medications daily in order to achieve a minimal amount of daily function. Social Security officials are supposed to take an applicant's medication regimen into account when assessing a disability claim. However, there are many cases where this issue is overlooked or dealt with improperly.

For example, in a 2009 case, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals chided a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) for rejecting a disability applicant's testimony regarding her pain as lacking credibility “because she had not reported any side effects from her medications.” The Seventh Circuit said it is “skeptical that a claimant's failure to identify side effects undermines her credibility” because medications affect each individual differently. And in that particular case, the applicant actually did report a significant side effect that the ALJ simply ignored.

Social Security “Ignored” Medical Evidence

In a more recent case from here in Illinois, a federal magistrate similarly criticized an ALJ's lackadaisical analysis of a claimant's prescription medication history. The applicant in this case was a 38-year-old woman who claimed disability due to, among other impairments, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. At the time of her disability application, she was taking at least seven medications to deal with her ailments. And according to medical records presented at the applicant's Social Security hearing, she was prescribed at least 12 medications during the course of her treatment for serious mental health problems. Records further indicate that her regimen was changed “23 times on record due to side effects and the effectiveness of the medications.”

Despite this, the ALJ rejected the applicant's request for disability benefits. On appeal, the magistrate found the ALJ erred in a number of respects and ordered Social Security to reconsider the woman's application. The ALJ determined the applicant was not disabled due to her mental health impairments because “she had no noted hospitalizations or restrictive medication regimens.” But as the magistrate noted, “the ALJ does not explain what he considers a restrictive medication regimen.” Indeed, the magistrate said the ALJ barely discussed the applicant's extensive medication history—and the accompanying side effects—at all in his opinion. The ALJ simply “ignored this entire line of evidence.”

The magistrate further criticized the ALJ's analysis of the applicant's mental health history. The ALJ opined the applicant's treatment was “not consistent with what would be anticipated from an individual who was unable to perform basic work functions.” Once again, the magistrate pointed out the ALJ never explained exactly what his standards were, that is, “what type of treatment history would be anticipated from an individual who was unable to perform basic work functions.” (Emphasis in original)

Get Help from a Disability Attorney

Social Security officials have a legal duty to review an applicant's entire medical history before awarding disability benefits. But this is not a license for bureaucrats to “play doctor.” If you have been denied disability benefits due to an insufficient or incorrect assessment of your medical history, it is important you speak with an experienced Chicago Social Security Disability attorney right away. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today if you need help as soon as possible.




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