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What Do You Do When Social Security Refuses to Properly Consider Evidence in a Disability Case?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

IL disability lawyerSocial Security disability claims are supposed to be decided on the basis of medical evidence. But in far too many cases, Social Security administrative judges (ALJs) selectively ignore medical evidence that favors the applicant. While an ALJ is not required to discuss every piece of evidence in fine detail, it is not acceptable to disregard evidence simply because it might benefit the applicant's case.

Social Security ALJ Accuses Disability Applicant of “Cheating” Without Evidence

In an April 29 decision, Muriel EF v. Commissioner of Social Security, a federal magistrate judge from here in Illinois ordered Social Security to conduct a new disability hearing for an applicant based on ALJ's disturbing “pattern” of cherry picking evidence. The plaintiff in this case is a woman in her 50s with a long history of medical impairments, including sciatica, spinal damage, and obesity.

In fact, the plaintiff's condition required her to undergo multiple spinal surgeries. Yet in denying the plaintiff's application for disability benefits, the ALJ “ignored” and “glossed over” this surgical history, as the magistrate put it. Indeed, the plaintiff “had two lumbar surgeries, which the ALJ also did not mention at all” in her decision. Another set of surgeries warranted nothing more than a mention in a single sentence. Similarly, the ALJ did not mention or discuss the results of a medical exam the plaintiff received–on her doctor's advice–after applying for disability benefits.

On top of that, the magistrate said the ALJ also managed to incorrectly analyze the evidence that she did bother to consider. As is common in disability cases, the plaintiff was required to complete a “functional capacity examination.” This is designed to simulate a disability applicant's ability to perform normal working activities. In this case, the plaintiff took a typing test as part of her functional capacity evaluation.

The results of the test corroborated the plaintiff's testimony that she could no longer work “full time at any exertional level.” The ALJ disagreed. More to the point, the ALJ “disregarded” the results of the typing test, because the ALJ was convicted the plaintiff cheated. The ALJ speculated that the plaintiff “could have switched positions frequently to make it look like her symptoms were severe, or, she pondered, the chair may not have been ergonomically situated for postural comfort.”

The magistrate rejected this “analysis” as nothing more than “speculative.” Not only did the record not support the ALJ's unfounded cheating allegation, but the magistrate also pointed out the ALJ herself acknowledged the medical evidence demonstrated the plaintiff “a limited range of motion, decreased lower extremity sensation, and chronic pain,” all of which affected her ability to work. Accordingly, the magistrate said the plaintiff was at least entitled to a new hearing, where the ALJ would be required to properly consider and analyze all of the available evidence.

Contact a Chicago Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

Dealing with Social Security is difficult enough when you are disabled. But it is exponentially more difficult to prove your case to an ALJ who simply refuses to look at the evidence. This is where having an experienced Chicago disability attorney can help make the difference. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney who can help you win your Social Security claim today.




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