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generalized anxiety disorder, Cook County Social Security attorney, denied disability claim, disability applicant, major depressive disorderDealing with anxiety and doubt is common. However, for some people, anxiety is an all-consuming fear that affects their ability to function in society. Known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), this type of illness is a serious mental health impairment and may qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits.

ALJ Improperly Holds Applicant's Inability to Afford Mental Health Treatment Against Her

Unfortunately, there is often a stigma associated with GAD and similar mental health disorders that can lead Social Security officials to unfairly reject disability claims. Indeed, as one recent Illinois case illustrates, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) may misinterpret a disability applicant's spotty employment history as “proof” that he or she is actually capable of working, without stopping to consider the overall impact of his or her anxiety disorder.

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deny disability claim, disability claim, Cook County disability benefits lawyer, Illinois disability cases, disability benefits applicationSocial Security often adopts a “blame the victim” approach when it comes to reviewing applications for disability benefits. A common tactic is to cite an applicant's “conservative treatment” history. In other words, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) will point to an applicant's decision not to seek a particularly aggressive form of medical care as “proof” that his or her impairment is not really that serious, and therefore not a disability.

Social Security Must “Explore the Claimant's Reasons for the Lack of Medical Care

The flaw in this line of reasoning is that there are plenty of legitimate reasons why a person with a serious mental or physical disability may not seek treatment as often, or as aggressively, as the ALJ might prefer. In many cases it simply comes down to a lack of money. Disability applicants are, by definition, people who are not presently working. Without any income or employer-sponsored health insurance, they are simply unable to afford treatment.

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Social Security Disability Insurance, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, disability applicant, chronic back pain, disability claimsOne of the most common reasons why people seek Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is they are simply in too much pain to keep working. When that pain has a clear medical explanation, you would think that should be enough to satisfy Social Security officials. Yet in far too many cases, agency officials simply dismiss “subjective” complaints of pain, even while acknowledging a disability applicant has a serious mental or physical impairment.

Judge Criticizes Social Security for “Selective” Misrepresentation of Evidence

Let us consider a recent decision by a federal judge in southern Illinois. The plaintiff is a woman in her mid-40s who first applied for disability benefits over five years ago. Previously, she worked as a customer service representative until her medical condition left her unable to sit all day.

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