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Social Security Continues to Reject Applicants' “Credibility” Despite New Rules

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

b2ap3_thumbnail_social-security-reject-applicants-Illinois.jpgThe Social Security Administration recently announced it would no longer assess the “credibility” of applicants as part of the process of awarding disability benefits. In far too many cases, Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) have used “credibility” as a pretext for rejecting valid disability claims.

Under the SSA's revised regulations, ALJs are now instructed to look at the credibility of specific claims made by applicants—such as the fact they suffer from crippling pain—rather than trying to impeach the applicant's overall character.

Social Security Ordered to Reconsider Gunshot Victim's Disability Case

Even with these new rules in place, there are a number of cases decided under the prior “credibility” standard still under review by Illinois courts. In one such recent case, a federal magistrate ordered Social Security to reconsider the “patently wrong” decision by an ALJ to deny an applicant's claim for disability benefits.

The plaintiff in this case first applied for disability benefits more than four years ago. He has been disabled since 1996 due to a gunshot wound and several related ailments, including high blood pressure and seizures. Before a Social Security ALJ, the plaintiff testified that the constant pain associated with a plate in his leg, a byproduct of the gunshot wound, “prevents him from standing very long” and also “affects his ability to lift, squat, bend, and kneel.”

The ALJ determined the applicant's testimony lacked credibility and rejected his disability claim. On appeal, the magistrate said the ALJ's decision was not “supported by substantial evidence.” The magistrate said the ALJ's opinion cited medical evidence in the record “without explaining how it undermines Plaintiff's testimony.” Nor did the ALJ bother to explain precisely which portions of the Plaintiff's testimony regarding his pain lacked credibility.

Indeed, the medical records indicated the plaintiff has been to the emergency room “at least nine times” due to his pain and complications arising from his leg injury and he is “constantly on antibiotics to combat his infections.” The ALJ disregarded all of this, apparently operating under the belief that the plaintiff's pain was not simply an exaggeration for purposes of obtaining disability benefits.

As the magistrate explained, however, the ALJ's role is not to “play doctor” or dismiss complaints about pain simply because a person is seeking benefits. The ALJ is required to provide analysis giving “clear and convincing reasons” for rejecting medical evidence, including the plaintiff's testimony. Accordingly, the magistrate ordered Social Security to reconsider the plaintiff's case, giving “due regard for the full range of medical evidence” presented.

Get Help From an Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Today

Social Security may change its rules, but disability applicants still need to deal with ALJs who are skeptical and often outright hostile towards their claims. This is why it is essential to work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who knows how to deal with Social Security and the courts. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need help with your disability case today.



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