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Social Security Does Not Always Base Disability Decisions on the Actual Medical Evidence

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

IL disability lawyerWhen applying for Social Security disability benefits, it is important to remember that the officials who will rule on your claim are not themselves doctors or medical experts. Social Security regulations require officials to carefully consider the medical evidence, as well as your own testimony regarding your symptoms, in making a decision. It is improper for Social Security to “play doctor” on its own accord or rule in a way that is not supported by the actual medical evidence presented.

Illinois Magistrate Orders New Hearing for Disability Applicant, Citing Multiple Legal Errors

Let's take this recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois, Matthew DS v. Saul. In this case, Social Security denied the disability application of a man (the plaintiff) who suffers from “inflammatory arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity.” Following a hearing, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) determined these impairments did not qualify the plaintiff for the disability benefits.

The magistrate judge, however, found that several aspects of the ALJ's decision were not supported by the medical evidence. Among the problems cited by the magistrate:

  • The ALJ said the plaintiff's medical exams showed his “small joints” were “unremarkable,” i.e. not disabling, yet the ALJ also acknowledged the plaintiff had “moderate rheumatoid arthritis with predominant large joint involvement."
  • The ALJ discounted the plaintiff's testimony about his condition, in part, due to “gaps” in his treatment–but the magistrate noted this was due to the plaintiff losing his insurance, not any “improvement” in his condition.
  • The ALJ also discounted the plaintiff's testimony he was unable to work because he could still perform certain “activities of daily living”; here, again, the magistrate said the ALJ misstated the record: the plaintiff might be able to dress himself–slowly, the magistrate added–and make a sandwich, but that has nothing to do with the fact he is unable to work full-time due to “chronic pain in his right shoulder, left elbow, and left ankle.”

Taken as a whole, the magistrate said the ALJ effectively leaped to the conclusion the plaintiff could go back to work, even though the evidence presented at the hearing suggested otherwise. Although the magistrate did not order Social Security to award disability benefits–such a step is rarely taken by judges–he did find the plaintiff was entitled to a new hearing before the ALJ.

Speak with an Illinois Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

Many of the issues cited by the magistrate in this case come up in other Social Security disability appeals. Indeed, Social Security ALJs often make the same legal errors in assessing applicants. That is why it is important to work with a qualified Chicago disability benefits attorney who works with the system on a daily basis and can help spot these types of errors. At the end of the day, you have the right to a fair hearing before an ALJ who will not take inappropriate legal shortcuts.

So if you have applied for Social Security benefits, or are thinking about applying, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.




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