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The disabled’s Social Security case is won or lost on the medical records. Often there are medical records from multiple sources and doctors. Commonly, some doctor reports are helpful to the claimant and some are not.

How does the Social Security judge decide between records that support and those that do not support disability? In the case Schink v. Commissioner of Social Security, not very well. Schnik involved a bipolar claimant whose case was initially denied.

Social Security First Dismissed Bipolar Symptoms as “Not Severe.”

The claimant in Schink had a history of mental illness when he applied for Social Security benefits. His primary doctors opined he was disabled due to a severe mental illness. But two other doctors were of the opinion that the claimant’s symptoms were mild.

The Social Security judge dismissed the opinion of the claimant’s primary care doctors. Instead the judge relied on the opinion of two consulting doctors. The primary doctors met with the claimant many times.  The consulting doctors met with the claimant just once. On appeal, the 11th Circuit disagreed with Social Security’s approach.

The Judge’s Reasons for Denying Benefits Didn’t Hold Up.

Usually a primary doctor’s opinion gets more attention and weight than the opinion of a doctor who only saw someone once.  If a judge wants to do so, he or she can, but has to give good reasons why.  Here, the 11th Circuit said the reasons the judge gave were not “good cause.”

The claimant was able to have regular conversations with his doctors.  This was one reasons the judge thought his symptoms were not severe. However, a claimant’s impairments do not have to impact every aspect of his life.  Just because he could talk to his doctors did not mean his bipolar disorder was not severe.

Just Because You Can Cook It Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Disabled.

The judge also ruled that the bipolar disorder was not severe because the claimant could care for himself. He could watch TV. He could walk his dog. He could cook for himself. However, the 11th Circuit said these facts did not mean his bipolar disorder was not severe.

The 11th Circuit complained that the ability of the bipolar claimant to function on his own did not reflect his problems working with people. Indeed, his medical records showed that his symptoms made it hard for him to work with others. The daily living activities all involved things the claimant could do one his own, alone.

What Kind of Social Security Case Do You Have?