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Will Social Security Take My Bipolar Disorder Seriously?

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

IL disability attorneyThere is a tendency among Social Security officials to take claims involving psychological impairments less seriously than those involving physical impairments. Legally, this should not matter. If a person is unable to work due to a documented mental disorder, they are just as entitled to disability benefits as someone with a physical impairment. Unfortunately, that is not always the reality.

Illinois Magistrate Orders a New Hearing, Criticizes ALJ for “Playing Doctor”

Take this recent decision from an Illinois federal magistrate judge, Anthony S. v. Saul. In this case, a 55-year-old man (the plaintiff) applied for disability benefits, citing a number of psychological impairments, including post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. After a hearing, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) determined these impairments did not prevent the plaintiff from performing some types of “light work” and denied his disability claim.

The magistrate, who reviewed the case after the plaintiff sued the Social Security Administration, noted the ALJ failed to “explicitly” state a “single theory” to explain the decision to deny benefits. Based on the content of the ALJ's decision, however, the magistrate interpreted rationale as that the plaintiff was “malingering,” i.e., the “intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated [] psychological symptoms.”

The problem with this rationale, the magistrate went on to say, was that it was the result of the ALJ “playing doctor.” That is to say, the ALJ substituted her own “layperson” judgments regarding the plaintiff's psychological impairments for those of the medical experts who actually offered evidence in the case. Indeed, the magistrate lamented this was just the latest in a series of cases where an ALJ's “lack of understanding of complicated impairments such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD” basically compromised the plaintiff's right to a fair hearing.

In particular, the magistrate noted that bipolar disorder “is not easy to treat in many cases.” The ALJ in this case concluded the plaintiff's condition was “fully controlled by his medications.” While it is possible to treat bipolar disorder with medication, the magistrate said, in reality, it is “difficult in practice” due to the episodic and changing nature of the disorder.

More broadly, the magistrate said the ALJ showed “no curiosity” in analyzing the facts of this case in a manner that might conceivably support a finding of disability. On the contrary, the ALJ went out of her way to interpret the facts presented against the plaintiff. The magistrate, therefore, ordered a new hearing, directing the ALJ to “conduct a more holistic and longitudinal analysis” of the plaintiff's circumstances.

Speak with a Chicago Social Security Disability Attorney Today

It is sadly far too common for Social Security officials to dismiss credible evidence of mental disorders in disability cases. This is why it is essential to work with an experienced Cook County disability benefits lawyer when dealing with Social Security. If you need advice and representation in connection with your case, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.




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