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7th Circuit To Social Security: Back Off Denials!

It was nice to see a federal court acknowledge what many of us practicing in the area of Social Security Disability have known for a long time:  The Social Security Administration is actively ignoring evidence in order to keep acceptance rates low. Over the past couple of months, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (the federal appeals court for Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) has put a smack down on administrative law judges that ignore a claimant’s actual medical treatment history in favor of agency doctors that provide opinions out of line with what the treating physicians discuss in their records.

In one case in particular, Goins v. Colvin, 2014 WL 4073108 (7th Cir. Aug. 19, 2014), an MRI revealed the claimant had a Chiari malformation, where brain tissue extends into the spinal column, causing severe headaches and pain.  The ALJ relied on an agency doctor’s review that did not discuss the Chiari malformation and opined the claimant could lift 50 pounds.  The ALJ held the claimant was not credible because the medical evidence did not support the claimant’s complaints.  Judge Posner, however, wrote:  “Having a part of one’s brain lodged in one’s spine is not the equivalent of having a runny nose or an ingrown toenail. . . The presence of a Chiari I malformation . . .supports the plaintiff’s claim.”  I love that!  He went on to say “We keep telling the …ALJs that they have to consider an applicant’s medical problems in combination” and scolding the ALJ for “playing doctor.”  

My hope is that the Social Security Administration gets the message!  We shall see. . . 

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