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What Happens If Social Security Accuses Me of Faking a Mental Disorder?

disability applicants, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, schizophrenia, mental disorder, Illinois disability caseSchizophrenia and related psychotic disorders are often misunderstood. While such impairments are recognized disabilities, Social Security officials may be dismissive of disability applicants who present medical evidence of mental disorders. Indeed, they may even go so far as to claim an applicant is “malingering” or fabricating symptoms just to receive disability benefits.

Judge Orders New Hearing for Disability Applicant With Schizophrenia

Still, Social Security administrative law judges are not there to “play doctor” and self-diagnose the applicant's mental health. Rather, their legal function is to assess and weigh the medical evidence presented to determine if the applicant qualifies for disability. Additionally, if the ALJ fails to do that, a federal judge or magistrate may order a rehearing.

That is exactly what happened in one recent disability case in Chicago. The applicant, a former truck driver, testified at his disability hearing that he suffered from psychotic symptoms. He reported hearing voices “not regularly but every now and then” and “admitted to having problems around people” that kept him from leaving his apartment for days at a time. A medical expert who also testified at the hearing diagnosed the plaintiff with “schizoaffective disorder.”

The ALJ, however, ultimately found the applicant was not legally disabled. Among other reasons, she said the applicant's testimony regarding his symptoms was “not credible” and indicated “possible malingering.” In fact, the ALJ suggested the applicant “may have been malingering” during the hearing, even though there was no medical diagnosis to that effect.

And that is why the federal magistrate who heard the applicant's appeal ultimately decided he was entitled to a new hearing. The ALJ's credibility analysis of the applicant “was not supported by substantial evidence,” the magistrate said. To the contrary, the applicant's “psychotic symptoms [were] heavily documented” in the record, as evidenced by the medical expert's diagnosis. As for the applicant's purported “malingering” at the hearing, the magistrate noted that any “vagueness or evasiveness” exhibited by the applicant at the hearing “could reflect the effects” of his psychotic state.

The magistrate also reminded Social Security that it recently abandoned its use of the term “credibility” when considering an applicant's testimony regarding his or her impairments. At the rehearing, the magistrate ordered Social Security to use the new process adopted by the agency.

Get Help Dealing With Social Security

Struggling with mental illness is never easy. It is even more difficult when layperson Social Security officials without medical expertise second-guess your every motive and statement. The whole reason for presenting medical records and expert testimony is to ensure decisions are not unfairly prejudiced by an ALJ's personal opinions about the applicant. It is also why you need to work with a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer when dealing with Social Security. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need help with your disability case today.


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