Bird v. Berryhill, No. 16-2000 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 2005, while serving in the Army National Guard, Bird injured a tendon in his right shoulder. He was operated on in 2006. He reported to Veterans Affairs doctors that he suffered hearing loss, migraines, and stiffness and pain in his hands, back and right shoulder, as well as anxiety, weakness in gripping objects, and ringing in his ears. The medical records include contradictory opinions from treating physicians. The Department of Veterans Affairs gave Bird a 70% service-connected disability rating but pays him at the 100% rate because they found him unemployable. The Social Security Administration denied Douglas Bird’s application for disability insurance benefits. The district court remanded. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The VA’s finding that Bird is 70% disabled and unemployable does not establish that he is entitled to SSA benefits. There are differences in how the agencies evaluate claims: the VA’s evaluation is pro-claimant rather than neutral. The grounds for the VA’s decision finding Bird to be 70% disabled and unemployable were not available to the ALJ and neither were the results of Bird’s x-ray and MRI. The record even includes evidence conflicting with a finding of disability.