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Denial of SSI reversed for failure to consider mental health

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A woman who claimed disability in part because of her diminished mental health will get another chance to present her case after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the administrative law judge did not properly consider the opinions and testimony regarding the woman’s mental condition.

Carol Bates applied for Supplemental Security Income following an auto accident that left her with physical and mental impairments and inhibited her ability to work. Her treating psychiatrist diagnosed Bates with bipolar type 2 disorder but noted that medication appeared to be helping.

The ALJ denied her application and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, affirmed. In Carol Bates v. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, 12-3359, the 7th Circuit reversed the decision of the District Court and remanded for rehearing.

The 7th Circuit found the ALJ was not “patently wrong” in discrediting Bates’ testimony about the extent of her chronic pain. Although the ALJ disregarded the opinions of two physicians treating Bates in favor of the opinion of the consultative doctor, this was not an error because the ALJ found discrepancies in Bates’ testimony and observed the claimant did not appear to be in pain during the hearing.

However, the ALJ did not provide any sound reasons for giving little weight to the psychiatrist’s opinion which was supported with Bates’ testimony and primary physicians.
 
“…in this case there was no other medical opinion for the ALJ to fall upon,” Judge Michael Kanne wrote for the court. “The state agency examining and consultative physicians did not examine Bates for psychological illness; at the time they reviewed her record, Bates had only seen a therapist briefly after the death of her fiancé. While Bates did bear the burden of producing evidence of her impairments, if the ALJ thought this evidence insufficient – as she apparently did – it was her responsibility to recognize the need for additional evaluations.”

 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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