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What If Social Security Thinks My Condition Is Intermittent?

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

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.”

A federal magistrate judge ordered a new hearing after holding the ALJ's conclusions were not supported by the “medical record” in the case. The magistrate identified a number of problems, which can be briefly summarized as follows:

The ALJ relied on the results of a July 2015 exam performed by a state medical consultant, who was neither an expert in the plaintiff's condition nor his treating physician; although this exam found the plaintiff “had no difficulty” with his hands, the magistrate noted the tests the doctor performed “were not the ones noted to produce the tremors” in the first place.

The ALJ said the plaintiff “had no good explanation for the delay” between visits to his treating neurologists, suggesting his tremor condition was no longer a problem; in fact, the magistrate noted, the plaintiff's gap in treatment was the result of losing his work-related health insurance.

The ALJ concluded the plaintiff's tremors were an “on and off again” problem that could be properly managed through medication, but none of the doctors who examined or treated the plaintiff ever made such a finding, and the ALJ “could not reliably make the inference” that this was the case.

Speak with an Illinois Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

Social Security often makes “inferences” it should not. This puts disability applicants in the position of having to go to court just to ensure Social Security follows its own regulations. If you are having difficulties with your own disability application and need representation from a qualified Cook County Social Security benefits attorney, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation. There is no risk in speaking with us, as we only collect a fee if we win on your behalf.




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