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Massachusetts Court Discusses Weight Given to Conflicting Evidence in Social Security Disability Claims

In many instances in which a person suffers a debilitating injury, the person will be unable to do any meaningful work and therefore cannot earn a living. In such cases, the person may file for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (SSDI). SSDI is not always granted, however, even if the claimant provides ample evidence of his or her injury if conflicting evidence is presented regarding the claimant’s lack of disability. In a recent case ruled on by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the court discussed what weight should be given to conflicting evidence when evaluating entitlement to SSDI. If you were injured and can no longer work, it is prudent to consult a seasoned Massachusetts social security disability attorney to discuss your case and whether you may be able to recover benefits.

Facts of the Case and Procedural Background

It is reported that the claimant sustained an injury to his shoulder while working as an order picker at a warehouse. He subsequently filed a disability claim due to complex regional pain syndrome/reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. His application was denied, and a subsequent reconsideration was denied. He then requested a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision, which became the final decision, and the claimant appealed. On appeal, the claimant argued that the ALJ committed an error by failing to give the claimant’s treating care provider controlling weight. Instead, the court adopted the findings of the physician who conducted an independent medical examination and opined the claimant did not have a physical disability.

Weight of the Evidence of Disability

On appeal, the court stated that under the treating source rule of the Social Security Administration, an ALJ should give greater weight to the opinions of claimants’ treating physicians, as they are the people most likely to be able to provide detailed pictures of the claimant’s disability. Further, the rule notes that a treating physician may have medical evidence that cannot be obtained solely from an independent medical examination. The court further explained that a treating physician’s opinion will be given controlling weight unless it is not supported by medically acceptable techniques, or is inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the record.

Here, the court found that although the report from the independent medical examination conflicted with the findings of the treating physician, the record as a whole supported the determination that the claimant was disabled due to his shoulder injury. Specifically, every other doctor who evaluated the claimant other than the doctor who performed the independent examination found that the claimant was suffering from complex regional pain syndrome. Thus, the court reversed the prior decision and remanded the case for reevaluation.

Meet with an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney

If you cannot earn an income because of a mental or physical disability you should meet with an experienced Massachusetts Social Security Disability attorney regarding whether you may be eligible for disability benefits. At Karsner & Meehan our social security attorneys will zealously pursue any benefits you may be able to recover. We can be reached at 508-822-6600 or via our form online to schedule a meeting regarding your claim.