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Will Social Security Ignore My Inability to Walk?

Posted by on in Social Security Disability

inability to walk, disability benefits,  disability benefits claim,  Chicago disability benefits lawyer, disability caseSocial Security's job when it comes to reviewing your claim for disability benefits is to assess the physical limitations on your ability to work. The most direct source of information regarding these limitations is obviously your own testimony. Yet Social Security has a long history of simply refusing to credit applicant testimony without justification. This can force applicants to go through a multi-level appeals process just to get a fair hearing.

Federal Court Finds Social Security Misstated Disability Applicant's Medical Record

Consider one Social Security case from here in Illinois that began more than five years ago. The plaintiff, a former laborer now in his 60s, was forced to stop working in 2008 due to a number of ailments, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and coronary artery disease. Indeed, the applicant's medical history for these conditions goes back nearly 14 years.

During his hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the plaintiff's ability to walk was a critical issue. The plaintiff testified that he could only walk about 10 yards (30 feet) at a time before getting “winded” due to his multiple impairments. The ALJ refused to accept this testimony, holding it was an “extreme allegation” that was inconsistent with the plaintiff's medical records “and his continued smoking.”

Although a federal magistrate upheld the ALJ's conclusions—and the decision to deny the plaintiff disability benefits—the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and ordered a new hearing. The appeals court said the ALJ's conclusion was “flawed in two ways.”

The first problem was that the ALJ refused to acknowledge any limitations in the plaintiff's ability to walk. Even if the ALJ thought the plaintiff exaggerated his symptoms, that did not mean he was capable of walking “without any restriction.” Social Security pointed to the plaintiff's ability to perform very minor household tasks—such as microwaving food for himself—as proof that he could walk just fine. But the Seventh Circuit noted it has repeatedly rejected the use of such “daily activities” as definitive proof undermining a disability claim.

The second problem was that the ALJ simply misstated the plaintiff's medical record. For one thing, the plaintiff is not currently a smoker. He smoked in the past. But as the Seventh Circuit noted, even if he was still smoking, that would not be enough to “discredit” his testimony about his ability to walk. Additionally, the ALJ failed to address a number of other symptoms arising from the plaintiff's impairments, including fatigue and drowsiness. Social Security must consider all of these issues in the new hearing.

Need Help With a Disability Case in Illinois?

Unfortunately, victory in the courts often means returning to Social Security and starting the fight for disability benefits all over again. It is a process that often takes several years to complete. That is why if you are medically unable to work, you need to seek advice from an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who understands how to deal with Social Security. Call Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 if you would like to speak with an attorney about your Social Security claim today.

Source:

Williams v. Berryhill, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Nov. 8, 2017.

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