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Can Social Security Disregard the Medical Testimony of Its Own Consultants?

Posted by on in Denied Social Security Benefits

Chicago Social Security disability lawyer, medical testimony, disability case, social security disability, disability appealsThere is a tendency in Social Security Disability Insurance cases for agency officials to place greater weight on the testimony of state agency medical consultants than on the findings of the applicant's own treating physician. The medical consultant's job is to perform an initial review of an applicant's medical history and determine if he or she is qualified as disabled under Social Security regulations. Unfortunately, medical consultants are often generalists who lack specialized knowledge of a disability applicant's impairments. Indeed, Social Security regulations only require the consultant to be a “licensed physician.”

ALJ Gives “Great Weight” to Testimony She Completely Ignored

Many times we see Social Security disregard testimony from a treating physician who is a specialist in favor of the non-specialized analysis prepared by the medical consultant. Of course, when a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) does not like what the medical consultant has to say, they may disregard that testimony as well. Such conduct is a clear affront to agency regulations, not to mention the due process rights of disability applicants.

Consider this recent disability case from here in Illinois. The applicant first filed for disability almost five years ago. He suffers from a number of physical impairments, including a severe spinal disorder. In fact, two separate state agency consultants determined the applicant's spinal problems were sufficient to qualify as a “medically determinable impairment” (MDI) for disability purposes.

Yet the ALJ assigned to the case chose to overlook this information. Although the ALJ said she gave “great weight” to the opinions of the medical consultants—while simultaneously disregarding the views of the applicant's treating physicians—she simply ignored their MDI diagnoses. On appeal, a federal magistrate judge found this suspicious to say the least.

More precisely, the magistrate said the ALJ “failed to build a logical bridge” between her ultimate conclusion—the applicant was not legally disabled—with the evidence presented to her. You cannot give “great weight” to the consultants on the one but then omit “any explanation concerning these state agency medical consultants findings that Plaintiff suffered from a severe spine disorder.” At a minimum, the magistrate said the ALJ needed to explain her “wholesale and inexplicable disregard of two diagnoses of severe spinal disorder.” While the magistrate did not rule the applicant was disabled, she did return the case to Social Security for further proceedings.

A Chicago Disability Benefits Lawyer Can Help You

Social Security often has difficulty dealing with medical evidence that goes against their preconceived notions of an applicant's condition. This is why it is critical to work with an experienced Chicago Social Security disability lawyer who understands how to deal with administrative law judges and, should the need arise, fight for your rights on appeal. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 if you need help dealing with Social Security today.


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