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Can Social Security Find I Was Disabled in the Past But Not Now?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

b2ap3_thumbnail_Social-Security-Chicago.jpgIt is possible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for a closed period of time. In other words, Social Security may determine, based on your medical records and other evidence, that you were disabled for a certain period of time but are currently capable of working.

In deciding whether your disability continues or has ended, Social Security must prove there has been a “medical improvement as shown by a decrease in medical severity” of your impairments.

Social Security Confuses Applicant's Poverty With “Medical Improvement”

Legally, the burden is on Social Security, not you, to prove medical improvement. However, sometimes Social Security forgets this. In a recent case in Illinois, for example, a federal magistrate found a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) failed to establish an applicant's medical improvement. Even more concerning, Social Security incorrectly argued before the magistrate that it was up to the applicant to prove “that her disability continued.”

In this case, the applicant filed for disability benefits in 2012. She said she had been disabled since 2010. After a hearing in 2014, the ALJ decided that while the applicant had been disabled from 2010 to 2013, she had experienced “medical improvement” and was no longer disabled. The ALJ based this finding largely on the fact the applicant did not seek additional “medical care or treatment or prescription for any medication” since 2013. Ergo, the ALJ reasoned the applicant must have experienced medical improvement.

However, as the magistrate explained, that is not how disability law works. An ALJ is not supposed to “draw any inferences about a claimant's condition” based on a failure to seek treatment without first exploring his or her reasons. In many cases, a disability applicant simply lacks the financial resources to seek proper medical care, and he or she may not have access to free or low-cost treatment where the individual lives. Indeed, the applicant in this case testified that she “could not afford to pay” her doctor, and that was why she did not see him again after 2013.

Additionally, the magistrate said the ALJ did not “cite any symptoms, signs, or laboratory findings that would support a finding of medical improvement.” Instead, the ALJ relied on his own observations of the applicant at a hearing in deciding her medical condition had improved. Again, this is not permitted by law. Social Security must rely on medical evidence from actual experts to corroborate any findings regarding the applicant's current condition.

Get Help From an Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney

Social Security often has trouble following its own rules. Hence, it is important to work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer whenever you are dealing with Social Security. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need to schedule a consultation with a qualified attorney today.



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