Decision denying disability benefits to woman overturned

The appeals process for disability benefits can be confusing and frustrating, but it can be necessary for people who disagree with the initial ruling on their claim and have reason to believe that some of the information regarding their condition was ignored or misinterpreted.

This is the situation in which one woman has found herself as she continues her fight to receive disability benefits.

The woman submitted her claim for disability based on a number of conditions that prevented her from working. She claimed that she suffered from fatigue, anxiety, panic attacks, disorientation and depression. The cause of these ailments is unknown, but the woman said they can be severe and unpredictable. 

Her claim was initially denied. Upon review by an administrative law judge, the claim was again denied. The ALJ noted that while her symptoms were medically credible, the ALJ did not agree with or find credible the woman’s statements regarding the severity of them.

The case eventually reached a federal court review where the decision by the ALJ was overturned.

The reason for the federal judge’s decision was based on the fact that the ALJ failed to specify which of the woman’s symptoms were credible and which weren’t. Because of this lack of explanation, the ALJ did not provide all the relevant information to a vocational expert who testified in the case. Vocational experts can be crucial in these situations because they weigh in on what jobs — if any — a person would be capable of performing based on their disability and residual functional capacity.

The federal judge found that the ALJ had not properly considered all the information about the woman’s condition and therefore the determination by the vocational expert as well as the measuring of the woman’s residual functional capacity was flawed. The case was sent to the Social Security Commissioner’s Office for review.

This case is a strong example of what happens during the SSDI appeals process. There is a lot of scrutiny placed on every detail of a claim and previous rulings and it can go from one court to another ending with different results. Because of how complicated this can be and how crucial disability benefits are for many people across Tennessee, having an attorney present during this process can be essential.

Source: Penn Record, “Benefits dispute remanded to Social Security Commissioner’s Office,” Nicholas Malfitano, July 13, 2015