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Will Social Security Reject My Depression as Grounds for Receiving Disability Benefits?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

Chicago Social Security attorney, depressive disorders, disability benefits, depression disability, Social Security Disability InsuranceAlthough depression is dismissed by many people as “just feeling sad” or “having a bad day,” in reality it is a serious mental disorder that affects millions of Americans. In fact, depressive disorders are among the most common sources of Social Security Disability Insurance claims.

Psychiatrist's “One-Time Evaluation” of Disability Applicant Still Valid

Getting Social Security to actually recognize an applicant's depression as a disability, of course, is not always simple. Even with a diagnosis from your treating physician, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) may attempt to minimize or outright dismiss your depression as a serious disorder. In many cases, the ALJ will even try to bypass your doctor's treatment opinions by citing third-party “experts” who review your medical records but never personally examine you.

Consider a recent Illinois disability case. The plaintiff in this case first applied for disability benefits nearly 25 years ago. Following a lengthy round of appeals, her most recent application was denied in 2015.

The plaintiff has suffered from depression since 1989. Multiple doctors have confirmed she has “major depressive disorder,” which means she exhibits “severe daily symptoms” of depression on a daily basis. During the applicant's most recent Social Security hearing, the applicant's treating physician said she “had marked restriction of activities of daily living, extreme difficulties maintaining social functioning, and frequent deficiencies of concentration.” In a workplace environment, the treating doctor said the applicant would exhibit “frequent deficiencies of concentration” and likely be absent “more than three times a month.”

The ALJ, who ultimately denied the applicant's claim for disability benefits, largely disregarded the treating physician's views due to purportedly “because her objective observations of the [applicant] recorded in her treatment notes sharply contradict the limitations she posited.” The ALJ also said the physician based her opinions on a “one-time evaluation.”

But on appeal, a federal magistrate said the ALJ's reasoning was insufficient and ordered a new hearing for the applicant. Under the law, Social Security must give “good reasons” for discounting or rejecting a treating physician's assessment of an applicant's disability. Even when that opinion is based on a single clinical examination, it is entitled to “persuasive” weight if the applicant can demonstrate the doctor had “special insight” into their medical condition.

In this case, the magistrate said the applicant met that burden. For one thing, the treating physician was a “psychiatrist” who is specially trained in diagnosing “mental impairments.” In addition, the psychiatrist's assessment “was generally consistent with the review” of at least three other specialists who examined the applicant. Not only did Social Security ignore this consistency, the magistrate noted, but the ALJ actually gave greater weight to a non-specialist “who neither treated nor examined” the applicant. The magistrate said that was unacceptable.

Is Social Security Ignoring Your Depression?

Depression is a lifelong struggle for too many Americans. It does not help matters any when Social Security officials second-guess your treating psychiatrist's diagnosis. If you are unable to work due to any kind of mental disorder and need assistance from a passionate Chicago Social Security attorney, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today.



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