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Does Age Matter When It Comes to Applying for Disability Benefits?

 Posted on September 20, 2016 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

Chicago Social Security Disability LawyersHow old you are when you apply for Social Security Disability insurance benefits can have a significant impact on your case. If you are age 50 or older, Social Security regulations require the agency to consider how your advancing age “will seriously affect your ability to adjust to other work.” This is critical because part of assessing a disability claim is determining what types of alternative work, if any, the applicant may be able to perform despite his or her medical impairments.

Judge Orders Social Security to Consider Applicant’s Case for a Third Time

In some cases Social Security officials may attempt to mischaracterize an applicant’s true ability to work in order to justify denying benefits. Here is a recent example from here in Illinois. The applicant in this case was 50 at the time she applied for disability benefits. She previously worked for the United States Postal Service for more than 20 years, the last five as a postmaster.

The applicant’s disability stemmed from a 2008 auto accident. She suffered a torn rotator cuff in her left shoulder that required surgery. She was also diagnosed with degenerative disc disease which produced chronic lower back pain.

A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) denied the applicant’s claim for disability benefits. The applicant appealed and a federal judge ordered the agency to reconsider the case. Social Security then reassigned the case to the same ALJ, who denied the claim a second time. Again, the applicant appealed and, again, a court returned the case to Social Security for reconsideration.

In this most recent appeal, a federal magistrate said the ALJ failed to explain why he changed his assessment of the applicant’s “residual functional capacity.” This is a critical step in all disability cases where Social Security determines the range of work an applicant may perform. In his first decision, the ALJ said the applicant was capable of performing “sedentary” work. But in his second decision following, the ALJ said the applicant could now perform “light” work.

This is not just a difference of semantics. Given the applicant is over the age of 50, she is legally classified as disabled if she can only perform “sedentary” work. But if she can perform “light” work, she is not considered disabled.

The ALJ cited an additional “three-and-a-half years of medical records” in justifying his decision to change the applicant’s classification. But according to the magistrate, the ALJ did not explain “how” these new records changed his mind. Accordingly, the magistrate returned the case to Social Security for a third time to reconsider this question.

Contact an Illinois Social Security Disability Lawyer

The applicant in the case above has been attempting to secure disability benefits for more than eight years. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. Social Security cases often require years of litigation. That is why it is essential to have an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer on your side. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today if you need to speak with an attorney about your Social Security case right away.



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