What Happens When Social Security Ignores “Overwhelming Evidence” That a Person Is Disabled?
It is not uncommon for federal judges to overturn a finding that a person is not entitled to Social Security disability benefits. What is unusual is for the court to actually award such benefits. Instead, the common practice is to return–or “remand”–the case to Social Security for a new hearing.
But there are exceptions. In some cases, a judge may decide the proof of an applicant’s disability is so “overwhelming” such that there is no logical way Social Security could deny benefits. In these unusual cases, the court may order a direct award without the need for a new hearing.
Boston Court Issues Direct Award of Disability Benefits to Woman Incapacitated by Migraines, Bladder Problems
The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston recently addressed just such an exceptional case. In Sacilowski v. Saul, a female plaintiff applied for disability benefits five years ago. She was unable to work due to her “migraine headaches and bladder ailments,” according to court records.
As the First Circuit explained in its opinion, at her initial hearing before Social Security, the plaintiff testified that she “experienced migraine headaches two to three times per week,” each lasting about a day and a half. She also had difficulty managing her bladder and experienced significant pain when urinating. The medical evidence provided by the plaintiff’s doctors confirmed this.
Indeed, as the First Circuit noted, there was no evidence rebutting or contradicting any of the plaintiff’s claims related to her conditions. Nevertheless, Social Security determined she was not disabled. Before the appeals court, Social Security argued there was “conflicting evidence” about the nature and severity of the plaintiff’s ailments.
But the Court found no such conflict. Upholding a trial court’s earlier ruling, the First Circuit said the “severity and frequency of [the plaintiff’s] migraine headaches and bladder ailments would have caused her to be absent from work at least once a month.” According to a Social Security vocational expert who testified at the initial hearing, this would prevent the plaintiff from working full-time.
Given this “overwhelming evidence,” the First Circuit said a new hearing was not necessary. Over Social Security’s objections, the Court ordered a direct award of disability benefits. A remand is only called for when there is a need to further develop the factual record of a disability case–but the Court said this was not such a situation.
Speak with a National Disability Lawyer Today
Again, it is important to note that courts typically will not make a direct award of disability benefits. There is normally some factual issue that requires additional proceedings. In some cases, a court may actually remand a case multiple times until Social Security “gets it right.”
This process is understandably frustrating to disability applicants who are unable to either work or collect benefits. It is therefore crucial to work with someone who understands the system. National SSD eligibility lawyer Stephen Barszcz can provide you with guidance and representation. Contact his office today at 877-655-2667 to schedule a consultation.