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IL benefits attorneyEven if you have a physical or mental impairment that qualifies you for Social Security disability, the government will cease paying those benefits if you reach “medical improvement.” In other words, if a doctor determines your impairments no longer prevent you from working, Social Security will find you no longer qualify as legally disabled. In some cases, Social Security may even determine you have already reached medical improvement by the time it considers your disability benefits application.

Federal Court Finds Social Security Officials Improper “Playing Doctor” Once Again

But as with all such determinations, Social Security must rely on the actual medical evidence presented. Agency officials are not supposed to engage in conjecture or render their own non-expert medical findings. Yet we continue to see cases where Social Security administrative law judges improperly “play doctor,” particularly in situations where a disability applicant has a difficult-to-diagnose impairment.

Consider this recent case, Brown v. Saul. The plaintiff in this case suffers from hand tremors. In part due to this impairment, the plaintiff applied for disability benefits in 2014. Following a hearing in 2016, an ALJ determined the plaintiff was disabled–but only for the period between March 2014 and July 2015. After July 2015, the ALJ found the plaintiff achieved medical improvement because he “did not suffer from tremors after that point.”

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Social Security disability applicants, Social Security disability, Cook County Social Security attorney, clinical depression, disability benefitsDepression is often overlooked as a disability. However, depression is one of the most common mental impairments cited by Social Security disability applicants. Depression is not simply “feeling sad.” It is a serious mood disorder that often renders victims unable to cope with the daily stresses of the workplace. In many cases, disability is simply one of several ailments that limit an applicant's ability to work or live his or her daily life.

Magistrate Orders 4th Disability Hearing for Illinois Woman With Depression

Sadly, getting Social Security to take depression as a disability seriously remains an uphill struggle for too many applicants. For example, a federal magistrate in Illinois recently ordered Social Security to conduct a new hearing for a woman suffering from depression who first applied for disability benefits nearly 10 years ago. In fact, this will be the fourth such hearing for the plaintiff, who has been unable to work since 2004 due to her depression and other impairments.

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Chicago Social Security disability lawyer, medical testimony, disability case, social security disability, disability appealsThere is a tendency in Social Security Disability Insurance cases for agency officials to place greater weight on the testimony of state agency medical consultants than on the findings of the applicant's own treating physician. The medical consultant's job is to perform an initial review of an applicant's medical history and determine if he or she is qualified as disabled under Social Security regulations. Unfortunately, medical consultants are often generalists who lack specialized knowledge of a disability applicant's impairments. Indeed, Social Security regulations only require the consultant to be a “licensed physician.”

ALJ Gives “Great Weight” to Testimony She Completely Ignored

Many times we see Social Security disregard testimony from a treating physician who is a specialist in favor of the non-specialized analysis prepared by the medical consultant. Of course, when a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) does not like what the medical consultant has to say, they may disregard that testimony as well. Such conduct is a clear affront to agency regulations, not to mention the due process rights of disability applicants.

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