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IL disability lawyerAlthough Social Security disability insurance is a federal program, it relies on state agencies to evaluate claimants. In Illinois, the office of Disability Determination Services within the Department of Human Services will assign medical experts to review an applicant's medical history. The state reviewers' opinions are then submitted to a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), who must consider the record as a whole before making a final decision as to whether the applicant meets the legal criteria to receive disability benefits.

Social Security Failed to Consider 400 Pages of Records in Illinois Man's Disability Case

The state agency reviewers can only do their job properly, however, when they actually have access to all of the relevant medical evidence. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. For example, an Illinois federal magistrate judge recently ordered Social Security to conduct a new hearing for a disability applicant after it came to light the state agency reviewers never considered 400 pages of medical records relevant to the case.

The plaintiff in this case, George K. v. Berryhill, suffers from a number of physical impairments. Initially, the plaintiff's problems revolved around his back, which he seriously injured at work in 2011. But starting in 2015, the plaintiff also began to suffer from seizures and other “seizure-like activity.”

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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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Posted on in Social Security Disability

On August 25th, 2012, the Social Security Administration (SSA) gave appointed representatives with access to online business services the capability to download audio recordings from Social Security disability hearings. This is a major step towards streamlining the disability benefits appeals process.

After a claimant has been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits at an administrative law hearing, he or she has 60 days to file an appeal to the Appeals Council.  If the claimant chooses to file an appeal, his or her Social Security disability attorney will likely request the hearing recording from the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR). Not unlike any other part of the disability process, obtaining the hearing recording from ODAR is often quite difficult. It involves getting the right person on the phone to speak to, receiving the physical cd in the mail, and then having a functional disk to work off of. Meanwhile, Social Security still has their filing deadline to be mindful of.

Now, disability lawyers can login to Appointed Representative Services (ARS) and immediately gain access to hearing records. This new feature will likely improve efficiency and along with the other features already in place allow representatives to better serve their clients.

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