In our last post we discussed one application for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits filed by a veteran who suffered from extreme PTSD. The veteran’s case highlights two important factors in the disability application process: medical evidence and legal advocacy. The veteran’s application was initially denied because an administrative law judge found the veteran’s medical documentation regarding his symptoms to be lacking.
The ALJ held a hearing regarding the veteran’s application in which he reviewed the veteran’s medical documentation, his testimony, and testimony from a doctor and a vocational expert. Although the ALJ attempted to review all of the information relevant to the case, the ALJ failed to ask the medical expert about the veteran’s PTSD.
The ALJ’s sole focus on the veteran’s physical ailments meant that the medical expert was unable to determine whether the combination of the veteran’s mental disability and his physical disability made him unemployable. There are many times when a single medical condition may not qualify a person for disability benefits but the disabling combination of multiple impairments does.
An experienced SSDI attorney can highlight all of an applicant’s impairments and draw the connection between each of these impairments and the applicant’s inability to work. Individuals who fail to obtain adequate legal representation are more likely to experience a significant oversight by an ALJ which can result in a denial of benefits.
A magistrate judge ultimately remanded the veteran’s SSDI case to the ALJ to consider his PTSD. We will discuss what happened at that stage and the appellate level in our next post.
Source: US Court of Appeals 7th Cir., “Guranovich v. Astrue,” Feb. 14, 2012