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Importance of Medical Opinions in Social Security Disability Application Process

Written by Ankin Law Office

Denials of an application for social security disability benefits are common occurrences.  If an application is denied, the applicant may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The ALJ will conduct an independent review of your social security disability claim to evaluate the merits of the claim.  The ALJ will consider a variety of documents, including medical opinions and vocational reports, in order to determine whether the applicant’s medical condition prevents him or her from working.

The Ninth Circuit, in Morinskey v. Astrue, recently examined the standards of review to be used by an ALJ when reviewing medical opinions.  In this case, the Ninth Circuit was asked to consider whether the district court erred in upholding the ALJ’s decision to deny an applicant’s claim for social security disability benefits based on bipolar disorder.

In its decision, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the applicant that there was insufficient discussion by the ALJ to support its disregard for critical portions of the medical opinion provided by the applicant.  Specifically, Dr. McNairn, the examining consultant, provided a medical opinion consistent with the medical records of the applicant’s treating physicians that supported an opinion that the applicant was unable to complete a normal work day and unable to perform regular and continuous work.

Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit awarded the applicant social security disability benefits, finding that “the ALJ failed to provide legally sufficient reasons to reject Morinskey’s evidence that he is disabled. A careful review of the treating and examining doctors’ opinions support[ed] the limitations presented to the vocational expert in the second hypothetical.”

This case demonstrates the importance of adequate medical testimony and medical opinions at a social security disability hearing.  A skilled social security disability attorney like the Illinois social security disability attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC can provide crucial assistance with respect to a hearing before an ALJ.  With more than 14 years of experience as attorneys for social security disability clients, we have the skill and knowledge necessary to prepare you for your social security disability hearing and to proactively advocate on your behalf at the hearing.   We take care to consult with knowledgeable medical experts who are familiar with the social security disability process.

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