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Social Security Often Falls Short in Assessing Depression and Anxiety Claim

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

IL disability attorneyContrary to what some people might think, anxiety and depression are not just euphemisms for “having a bad day.” They are serious mental health disorders. And in severe cases, anxiety and depression can make it impossible for a person to hold down a full-time job–a scenario that may qualify that individual for Social Security disability benefits.

Magistrate Orders New Hearing Due to ALJ's “Distorted Picture” of the Evidence

Of course, it does not help when Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) fail to properly consider or assess evidence of an applicant's depression and anxiety. Consider this recent disability case from here in Illinois, John B. v. Saul. Here, a federal magistrate judge ordered Social Security to conduct a new disability hearing due to “clear factual errors” made by the ALJ the first time around.

The plaintiff in this case filed for disability benefits nearly five years ago. The plaintiff first started experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety in 2010. The plaintiff's treating psychiatrist later said in response to a Social Security questionnaire that the plaintiff “had extreme limitations in social functioning and marked limitations in concentration, persistence or pace.” This indicated the plaintiff met the legal standard for disability.

At a hearing before the ALJ, the plaintiff and his wife were the main witnesses. The plaintiff testified that he was forced to quit his last job due to his psychological problems. And his ongoing anxiety disorder “made him very uncomfortable around people, even just standing next to them.”

The ALJ ultimately determined that, despite the plaintiff's anxiety and depression, he was still capable of working. Social Security, therefore, denied the plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Before the magistrate judge, the plaintiff argued that the ALJ committed multiple legal errors in her analysis.

The magistrate principally focused on one error, namely the ALJ's reliance on a “distorted picture of the plaintiff's activities.” The plaintiff's case for disability benefits centered on his claim that his depression and anxiety effectively rendered him unable to function unless he was “at home and no one is bothering him.” But the ALJ said the plaintiff “could do various activities inside and outside the home that were supposedly inconsistent with his self-reported statements about what he could do.”

However, the magistrate explained the ALJ essentially distorted the record to fit her conclusions. In several places, the ALJ “ignored or blandly summarized statements favorable to plaintiff” while “choosing the most unfavorable verbal formulations” of the testimony offered by the plaintiff and his wife and “aggressively turning them into broader blanket propositions.” For this reason, the magistrate said the plaintiff was entitled to a new hearing.

Speak with a Cook County Social Security Disability Attorney Today

Depression and social anxiety disorders are often not taken as seriously by Social Security officials as they should be. This is where having a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer presenting your case can make a significant difference in the outcome of a hearing. If you need assistance in dealing with Social Security, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation.




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