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Third Disability Hearing Ordered for Ex-Nurse Injured in Patient Assault

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

IL disability attorneyEven if you are unable to return to your previous job due to a medical condition, Social Security will not award you disability benefits unless it is satisfied that you are incapable of performing any type of meaningful work. The opinions of your treating physician are often critical towards proving this is the case. Of course, some Social Security administrative law judges may try to “play doctor” and attempt to disregard (or misrepresent) the views of your actual physicians.

Take this recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois, T.D.B. v. Saul. The plaintiff in this case previously worked as a registered nurse. In 2007, she suffered a serious wrist injury when she was attacked by a patient. The plaintiff's physician subsequently diagnosed her with chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS). By 2010, the physician concluded the plaintiff had “reached maximum medical improvement,” which is a legal term used in connection with workers' compensation proceedings. At the time, this meant the plaintiff would be limited to “full-time sedentary work.”

In 2012, however, the treating physician revised this diagnosis. In a separate letter to the workers' compensation insurance adjuster assigned to the plaintiff's claim, the doctor said the plaintiff was “essentially unemployable,” i.e., she was no longer medically capable of returning to work in any capacity on a full-time basis.

The plaintiff filed for Social Security disability benefits in 2013. In 2015, an ALJ denied the plaintiff's claim. This prompted a round of appeals, after which a magistrate directed Social Security to conduct a second hearing. The second hearing also led to a denial of disability benefits, leading to another round of appeals.

This time, a different magistrate said Social Security still had not gotten things right and ordered a third hearing. The main flaw with the second hearing, the magistrate said, was the ALJ's decision to “no weight” to the treating physician's 2010 and 2012 findings. With respect to the latter, the ALJ said it was “quite likely” the doctor was only “referring to the claimant's past work as a registered nurse,” and not her ability to find other work.

The magistrate said the evidence “supports a diametrically opposite conclusion.” That is to say, while the 2010 letter said the plaintiff could still perform sedentary work, the doctor “recanted that opinion” in his 2012 letter. More to the point, even the 2010 letter did not refer to nursing, as that is not what anyone would consider a “sedentary job.”

Speak with a Cook County Social Security Attorney Today

Social Security is supposed to give controlling weight to a treating physician's medical opinions unless there are “good reasons” not to do so. The mere fact that an ALJ does not like the opinion is not a good reason. Unfortunately, many disability applicants run into roadblocks like the ones described in the case above. This is why it is important to work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today if you need help pursuing a Social Security claim or appeal.




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