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Illinois disability hearing attorney physician opinionIn Social Security disability cases, agency officials will look at two types of medical evidence: The information provided by an applicant’s own treating physicians, and testimony from outside reviewers and consultative examiners, who typically look at an applicant’s medical records but do not necessarily examine them in person. When one’s own doctor's medical opinions are supported by appropriate treatment records, Social Security is expected to afford such views substantial weight, even if they conflict with the opinions of the outside consultants.

Magistrate Orders New Hearing After Social Security Ignores Evidence from Applicant's Psychiatrist

In far too many disability cases, Social Security does not provide the proper weight to the opinions of an applicant’s own physician. A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) will often credit the views of the outside experts–who often believe the applicant is not disabled–and ignore the contrary opinions of the treating physician. While this is not necessarily against regulations, the ALJ cannot simply ignore evidence.

Consider a recent decision by a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois, Sartin v. Berryhill. The plaintiff in this case is a woman who first applied for disability benefits nearly five years ago. At a hearing, the ALJ accepted evidence that the plaintiff suffered from a number of severe impairments, including depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nevertheless, the ALJ found these impairments “do not meet or medically equal” a legally recognized disability.

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Chicago Social Security disability attorney, disability decisions, doctor's opinions, Social Security Disability Insurance, Illinois disability caseIn any Social Security Disability Insurance case, the expert opinions and medical records provided by the applicant's treating physicians are critical. Obviously, no one knows an applicant's medical history better than his or her own doctors. And while Social Security is not required to find an applicant is disabled based solely on a treating physician's records and notes, the agency must give a sufficient explanation for discounting or disregarding such evidence in making a final determination.

Magistrate Criticizes Social Security for “Abstract,” Baseless Conclusions

What a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) cannot do, however, is ignore a treating physician's medical opinion simply because he or she disagrees with it. Yet there are many cases where an ALJ, having already made up his or her mind to deny disability benefits, goes looking for any excuse to discredit the treating physician's contrary conclusions. This goes against the letter and the spirit of Social Security regulations, and federal courts are quick to point this out when applicants appeal decisions denying benefits.

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