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IL disabiity lawyerThere are a variety of conditions that can cause a person to become disabled, and some of them may be less obvious than others. While injuries or physical impairments can affect the type of work a person can perform, mental health concerns can also lead to disability. Unfortunately, those who suffer from mental illness may be denied Social Security Disability benefits, and they should understand their options for appealing these decisions.

Magistrate Overrules ALJ’s Decision Due to Incorrect Consideration of Mental Limitations

One recent Illinois case illustrates some of the reasons a person with a mental illness may be improperly denied disability benefits. In the case of Panayiota P. K. v. Commissioner of Social Security, the plaintiff was a 49-year-old woman who suffered from multiple mental impairments, including bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She reported difficulty with concentration, understanding and following instructions, and getting along with authority figures. She also experienced anxiety attacks multiple times per week, anger issues, and a voice in her head that told her to strike people who upset her.

At the plaintiff’s evidentiary hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determined that the plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform work involving simple, routine tasks. A vocational expert (VE) testified that the plaintiff could work in light jobs such as a cleaner or production worker, but they noted that being off-task for at least 10% of the time would result in termination, and the plaintiff would likely also be terminated if she had any verbal or physical confrontations while at work. The ALJ denied disability benefits and stated that the plaintiff should be able to find work within her limitations.

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IL disability lawyerSocial Security officials often deny applications for disability benefits  because they fail to properly consider all of the available medical evidence. This includes not just evidence regarding an applicant's physical condition, but also their mental state. That is to say, Social Security may incorrectly–and illegally–discount the expert opinions of a disability applicant's treating psychiatrist.

Mischler v. Berryhill

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago recently addressed such a case. The plaintiff here is a 47-year-old woman who suffers from a number of physical and mental impairments, including depression. More than five years ago, the plaintiff applied for disability benefits.

Before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the plaintiff presented evidence that she was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2001. As is often the case with psychiatric disorders, the plaintiff's symptoms ebbed and flowed over time. In 2008, she required hospitalization for her depression. And starting in 2003, she began seeing a psychiatrist.

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Chicago disability benefits lawyer, Social Security disability benefits, mental disorders, social functioning, major depressive disorderMental disorders often impair a person's social functioning. This is an important factor when applying for Social Security disability benefits, since one of the key questions agency officials must consider is whether an applicant has the “residual functional capacity” (RFC) to hold down a job, taking into account the limits on his or her social functioning. But as we often find when it comes to Social Security, the agency's administrative law judges (ALJs) are quick to minimize and dismiss concerns regarding social functioning—and mental disorders in general.

Court Cites Failure to Properly Consider Applicant's “Moderate Difficulties” in Social Settings

Consider a recent decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago. The Court ordered a new hearing for a woman in her mid-40s who first applied for disability benefits over five years ago. The woman—who we will identify here as the plaintiff—suffers from a number of physical and mental impairments, including major depressive disorder.

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