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Chicago disability benefits lawyer, Social Security Disability Insurance, unrepresented disability claimant, disability cases, disability proceedingsYou have probably heard the old proverb, “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” It may sound harsh, but representing yourself in any kind of legal proceeding is a bad idea. This is especially true when applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Disability cases often take many years and can require several hearings (and appeals) to resolve in your favor. Due to the heavily fact-specific nature of disability proceedings, an attorney is not just optional but critical to your success.

Unrepresented Disability Claimant Gets Second Chance

However, if for some reason you do appear at a disability hearing without representation, the administrative law judge (ALJ) presiding over your case still has a legal obligation to give you a fair hearing. Indeed, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has appellate jurisdiction over all disability cases in Illinois, has expressly said that an ALJ “has a heightened duty to make sure that the record is developed when a claimant is unrepresented.” Among other things, this means an ALJ must be proactive in asking you questions about your disability and contacting medical professionals who have treated you or reviewed your records.

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disability applicants, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, schizophrenia, mental disorder, Illinois disability caseSchizophrenia and related psychotic disorders are often misunderstood. While such impairments are recognized disabilities, Social Security officials may be dismissive of disability applicants who present medical evidence of mental disorders. Indeed, they may even go so far as to claim an applicant is “malingering” or fabricating symptoms just to receive disability benefits.

Judge Orders New Hearing for Disability Applicant With Schizophrenia

Still, Social Security administrative law judges are not there to “play doctor” and self-diagnose the applicant's mental health. Rather, their legal function is to assess and weigh the medical evidence presented to determine if the applicant qualifies for disability. Additionally, if the ALJ fails to do that, a federal judge or magistrate may order a rehearing.

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Chicago disability benefits lawyer, Social Security Disability Insurance, disability case, disability claim, disability applicantOne of the critical steps in reviewing a claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is assessing the type of jobs that an applicant might still be able to perform when taking into account his or her medical impairments. To conduct this analysis, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) will pose a hypothetical residual functional capacity (RFC) scenario to a vocational expert. The expert will then offer an opinion on what jobs, if any, a person with the hypothetical RFC could do.

Chicago Court Questions Source of “10 Percent” Conjecture

Obviously, a lot hinges on how the ALJ poses the RFC to the expert. And it should go without saying that applicants are not “hypothetical” scenarios. They are living, breathing people with documented medical histories. Unfortunately, many ALJs disregard this in an attempt to short-circuit a disability claim by inventing scenarios designed to obtain a particular response from the expert.

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