Massachusetts Court Discusses Criteria for Establishing Impairment of a Child in Social Security Disability Cases

While many people think of Social Security Disability Benefits as benefits paid to adults who cannot work due to a physical or mental disability, disabled children may be eligible for benefits as well. Similar to adults seeking Social Security Disability Benefits, children seeking benefits must establish that they meet the requirements set forth by law. In a recent case, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts discussed what a child claimant must prove to be eligible for benefits and what weight should be granted to the child’s treating physicians. If your child suffers from a physical or mental impairment and you wish to obtain disability benefits, you should speak with a proficient Massachusetts Social Security Disability attorney to discuss your case.

Factual Background

It is reported that the child claimant suffers from significant impairments in reading and writing, following directions, and completing grooming and other self-care tasks. She also has ADHD and PTSD. Her guardian filed a claim for Social Security Disability Benefits on behalf of the child. The administrative law judge denied the claim, finding that the child did not suffer from an impairment and her treating physicians were not credible. The child’s guardian appealed.

Physical or Mental Impairment of a Child

Under the Social Security Act, a child who has a medically determinable mental or physical impairment that causes severe and marked functional limitations that are anticipated to last a minimum of twelve months is deemed disabled. Thus, when a claim for Social Security Disability Benefits is made on behalf of a child under the age of eighteen, the determination must be made as to whether the child’s impairment is severe. If it is established that a child has a severe impairment, the inquiry becomes whether the impairment is either listed in or is functionally or medically equivalent to, an impairment listed in the regulations. If the child does not have such an impairment, he or she will not be deemed disabled.

In the subject case, the administrative law judge found that the child was not disabled, in part due to the fact that he found that the child’s expert reports were not credible because they were provided by the child’s treating physician. The court disagreed with the judge’s reasoning, finding that it was improper to disregard a treating physician’s opinion simply because it was solicited. Rather, in evaluating a medical opinion, a judge should examine several factors, including the length of the treating relationship and examination, whether the opinion is supportable, and the specialty of the person providing the opinion. Here, the court found that the administrative law judge erred in discounting the child’s treating physician’s opinion. Thus, the court granted the guardian’s appeal and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Meet with a Seasoned Social Security Disability Attorney About Your Case

Children with mental and physical impairments may be able to recover Social Security Disability Benefits. If your child has a disability you should meet with a seasoned Massachusetts Social Security Disability attorney to discuss what benefits your child may be able to recover. The knowledgeable Social Security Disability attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan will work tirelessly on behalf of you and your child, to help you seek any benefits you may be owed. We can be reached at 508-822-6600 or via our form online to set up a conference.