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Malingerers make it harder on others to get approved for benefits

Sometimes people get sick for reasons that doctors can't identify. However, just because the physical cause for a patient's symptoms can't be identified doesn't mean that he or she is malingering -- faking an illness -- in order to get approved for disability benefits.

There are actually a number of possible reasons someone might suffer from symptoms that defy easy explanations:

-- Some medical conditions are simply hard to diagnose in the early stages. For example, Lupus and multiple sclerosis are both well-known diseases that can take years to be diagnosed because the early symptoms are vague. In addition, both diseases can cause anxiety and depression, which might cause the underlying physical disease to be overlooked.

-- The patient may be suffering from a disease or disorder that medical science simply doesn't yet recognize. Migraines were once thought to be largely a disorder of the imagination. Fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes wide-spread pain, was once widely dismissed as purely psychosomatic.

-- He or she may have a factitious disorder, which is sometimes known as Munchausen Syndrome. Patients with a factitious disorder have a genuine psychiatric problem and will purposefully sicken themselves and undergo painful tests or treatments in order to meet a deep emotional need for attention.

-- The patient may have a somatoform disorder. Somatization occurs when a patient with psychiatric problems perceives his or her symptoms, which often seem neurological, as real. Symptoms may suddenly worsen when the patient is under extreme stress, to the point where he or she even experiences things like paralysis or blindness. It's believed the emotional stress "converts" into physiological symptoms.

All of these patients can qualify for Social Security disability benefits under section 12.07 of the Disability Evaluation Guide for mental disorders. It's important to remember that even patients with factitious or somatoform disorders are not malingerers. Instead, they're suffering from serious mental disorders.

Malingerers usually have one goal -- financial gain. Because of that, their symptoms often mysteriously vanish when they aren't being observed or once they are approved for benefits. Unfortunately, people with real disorders can be misidentified as malingerers because doctors and disability examiners get jaded after a few bad experiences.

If you're having trouble getting approved for disability benefits because Social Security suspects you of being a malingerer, consider contacting an attorney for assistance.

Source: www.ssa.gov, "Disability Evaluations Under Social Security 12.00 Mental Disorder: 12.07," accessed March 28, 2017

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Our Philadelphia firm and attorneys have received numerous accolades in the area of workers' compensation law. Several of our attorneys have been recognized by their peers and listed in Super Lawyers since 2006. The Super Lawyers process recognizes the top lawyers in their fields in Pennsylvania.

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