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ALJ's denial of disability benefits overturned on appeal

Georgia residents place a great deal of trust in their doctors and other medical professionals. Unfortunately, this same level of trust is not always followed by others during the process of evaluating a claim for Social Security disability benefits.

During a hearing on a disability benefits claim, one of the key issues is determining whether the applicant is disabled. In making this determination, an administrative law judge may hear evidence from doctors regarding the medical condition at issue.

For instance, one man recently applied for disability benefits after suffering a work-related injury at his job as a welder. After the man's worker's compensation and unemployment benefits ran out, he applied for Social Security disability benefits for injuries and he was examined by medical professionals who concluded he was disabled and limited in what he could do. Nonetheless, the administrative law judge denied the man's claim because the man had waited until his unemployment benefits ran out to apply for disability benefits.

The denied claim was reversed on appeal, however, by an appellate court that concluded the administrative law judge's reasoning did not make sense. The appellate court noted the man did not need disability benefits when he was receiving unemployment benefits, and his receipt of unemployment may imply he had the ability to work at the time.

The case is significant in that it demonstrates how important it can be to appeal a wrongful denial of disability benefits. While an administrative law judge may make an error, such as in assessing the medical evidence at issue in the case, the appeals court has the power to overturn this decision and award disability benefits.

Source: The Indiana Lawyer, "7th Circuit remands disability benefits denial," Jennifer Nelson, July 27, 2016

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