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Retired Federal Judge Calls Disability Ruling a “Miscarriage of Justice"

Posted by on in Denied Social Security Benefits

disability claims, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, disability appeals, disability benefits, Denied Disability BenefitsIt is common knowledge that disability claims involving fibromyalgia—a chronic pain condition that often prevents an individual from working—are frequently dismissed by the Social Security Administration without proper justification. It is simply easier to say the applicant is “faking” or exaggerating their pain symptoms. But many judges have criticized Social Security for its lackadaisical (and legally incorrect) approach.

Court Ignored Staff Memo Favoring Reversal of Social Security

In fact, one of the nation's most prominent judges recently used the occasion of his retirement to criticize his former colleagues for recently affirming Social Security's denial of a fibromyalgia-based disability claim.

Richard Posner served on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals from 1981 until September 2 of this year, when he abruptly announced his resignation. Within days, Posner published a book detailing his of disagreements with the other Seventh Circuit judges over the management of the court.

Specifically, Posner outlined a series of reforms for the Seventh Circuit's “staff attorney” program. Staff attorneys are young lawyers, mostly recent law school graduates, who assist the appeals court in reviewing routine cases. Indeed, as Posner explained, the majority of Seventh Circuit cases—including disability appeals—are disposed of by having the staff attorney write a memo, which a three-judge panel then reviews and often adopts as the court's final ruling.

Posner identified an August 15 disability decision as especially problematic. In this case, a three-judge panel upheld a Social Security ALJ's decision to deny disability benefits to a woman with fibromyalgia. The Court's decision is barely two pages long and concluded that “substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.”

But as Posner noted in his book, the panel “discussed none of the evidence, let alone assessed its substantiality.” Posner bluntly called this “lazy judging.” What made it worse, he said, was that the staff attorney assigned to the case prepared a “superb” 26-page memo that actually advised the panel to reverse the ALJ's decision and grant the applicant a new disability hearing.

The memo, according to Posner, said the ALJ never identified specific medical evidence to contradict the applicant's testimony that she suffered from “disabling pain.” The ALJ also “exaggerated” the applicant's ability to work full-time. But the three-judge panel never referred to any of this, Posner said, and instead “rubberstamped an incompetent administrative ruling,” which he declared a “miscarriage of justice.”

Do You Need Help With Your Social Security Disability Case?

Judge Posner's book exposes the previously non-public nature of staff attorney memos and their potential impact, or lack thereof, on disability appeals. Posner's overall thesis is that litigants who represent themselves are at a significant disadvantage in court. That is why it is essential to work with a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer when you are dealing with Social Security, either before the ALJ or on appeal. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, to schedule a consultation with an attorney right away.


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