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IL disability lawyerWhen a federal court determines Social Security has failed to properly weigh medical evidence in a disability case, the normal course of action is to remand–return–the case to the agency for a new hearing. But what happens when Social Security ignores the court's instructions? Indeed, what happens when the same disability case is brought to court multiple times?

Magistrate: ALJ Ignored Disability Applicant's Pain During Hearing

This scenario recently played out before an Illinois federal magistrate judge. This particular case, Kimberly M. v. Saul, involves a woman who has not worked in nearly 15 years. The plaintiff is in her mid-50s and stopped working in 2005 due to ongoing complications from a back injury. Despite surgery in 2016, the plaintiff continues to experience “significant pain in her spine, right hip, buttock and leg,” according to the magistrate's opinion.

Unfortunately, the plaintiff's difficulties with the disability insurance system have proved just as persistent as her back pain. By the time of the magistrate's order in April 2020, the plaintiff had been through three separate hearings at Social Security. Each time, an administrative law judge (ALJ) determined the plaintiff did not meet the legal requirements for disability benefits. And each time, the court found Social Security ignored key medical evidence.

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IL disability lawyerPsychiatric disorders often manifest themselves through inconsistent symptoms. That is to say, a person can feel “fine” one day yet be totally incapable of leaving the house the next. Such inconsistency often leads Social Security disability officials to incorrectly conclude an applicant's medical disorder is not “severe” enough to justify an award of benefits.

Court Orders New Hearing After Social Security Official Disregards Testimony from Multiple Psychiatrists

Take this recent Illinois disability case, Nicole D. v. Saul. The plaintiff in this case applied for disability benefits more than five years ago. She suffers from a number of psychiatric disorders, including major depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

At a disability hearing, the plaintiff presented expert opinions from three of her treating physicians. The first doctor, a psychiatrist, explained the plaintiff's mental disorders were “severe enough to meet or equal” Social Security's disability requirements. The psychiatrist based her findings on her extensive treatment of the plaintiff, which encompassed approximately 40 consultations between 2014 and 2016.

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IL SSI lawyerIn order to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must be completely unable to work. Even if you are incapable of returning to your previous job, Social Security will also look at whether you can perform different types of work, including “sedentary” work. Among other things, sedentary work includes jobs that do not require a person to lift more than 10 pounds at once during the workday.

Illinois Magistrate: Social Security Failed to Give “Controlling Weight” to Disability Applicant's Doctor

So if your treating physician determines you cannot lift more than 10 pounds, that should weigh in favor of granting your application for disability benefits. Of course, Social Security does not always make things that easy. Take this recent decision from an Illinois federal magistrate judge, Lucy S. v. Saul. In this case, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) disregarded the findings of an applicant's treating physician with respect to her ability to lift. The magistrate took exception to the ALJ's decision and returned the case to Social Security for a new hearing.

The plaintiff in this case was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a teenager. She was nevertheless able to work as an MRI technologist for approximately 14 years. While moving a patient one day in 2015, the plaintiff said her “back gave out with a pop,” and she has been unable to work ever since.

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