Federal Court Rules on Social Security Claimant's Credibility

Posted on Oct 19, 2015

A Federal District Court recently sent a case back to Social Security for immediate payment of benefits.

This case involved a finding at the hearings level that the disability claimant had engaged in drug seeking behavior for pain medication. In this particular case, the disability claimant had obtained pain medication refills after going to the emergency room on two different occasions.

The court found that the ALJ failed to properly explain how an emergency room visit in and of itself rendered the claimant not credible. Also, the court had problems with the Judge’s finding that claimant was exaggerating his symptoms. The evidence actually showed that the pain complaints were legitimate. The court also called to task the ALJ's conclusion that just because the claimant's Crohn’s’s disease was stable meant that he was able to work. The phrase “relatively stable” did not equate to the ability to perform regular work, especially where the record showed that the claimant was having ongoing symptoms which required multiple breaks during the day.

Finally, the Court was critical of the ALJ's selective references to the medical charts, while rejecting many others, as a basis of finding Claimant was not forthright. Also, the fact that the claimant was able to do some type of work, and some household chores did not mean that the claimant was ability to work full-time.

Testifying at a Social Security hearing can present problems becuase there are lots of statements in forms and medical records, and a disability claimant can easily but innocently contradict past statements.  The best advice, of course, is to be honest, and that is usually not a problem.  The bigger issue we see is where people take a stab at a question by simply guessing an answer.  That can be as bad is flat out lying.  This is not a test.

If you are facing a hearing, here is an article to get you ready.

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Top-rated Personal Injury Lawyer Helping Oregon and Washington Families