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Can I Collect Disability Benefits from both Social Security and State of Illinois?

IL disability lawyerMany Social Security disability applicants often get tripped up by the process. They may assume they qualify as “disabled” based on a prior doctor's diagnosis or state-agency decision. But Social Security has its own standards for assessing disability. And if you proceed without fully developing the record in support of your claim, you are likely to be denied benefits, even if your case has merit.

Appeals Court Upholds Social Security Decision Despite ALJ's Failure to Fully Develop the Record

A recent decision from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Elder v. Berryhill, helps illustrate the hurdles that disability applicants face. The plaintiff in this case applied for disability benefits in 2012, alleging he had been unable to work since 2010 due to a number of physical impairment.

The plaintiff presented his own case to an administrative law judge (ALJ) without the assistance of a qualified disability attorney. At the hearing, the plaintiff said the Illinois Department of Human Services “deemed him disabled and provided him with a home-care assistant.” The plaintiff further testified he suffered from “excessive pain” and required constant medication.

The ALJ ultimately determined the plaintiff's impairments did not qualify him for disability benefits. The ALJ said the medical records provided did not “reflect the alleged severity” of the plaintiff's pain and limitations. In other words, the ALJ found the plaintiff's testimony was not credible.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued the ALJ erred as a matter of law in discounting his credibility. But the Seventh Circuit disagreed. It said the ALJ “may discount an applicant's testimony if, as in this case, other evidence in the record provides a basis for doing so.” What an ALJ cannot do is simply dismiss a disability applicants complaints about chronic pain as “subjective,” which the appeals court said was not the case here.

The plaintiff also argued the ALJ failed to consider the Illinois Department of Human Services' decision that he was “disabled” and qualified for certain benefits under state law. The Seventh Circuit rejected this argument as well. It noted the plaintiff's claims were “not fully supported.” Rather, the plaintiff presented a “one-page document completed by an unidentified case manager” showing he received benefits. But nothing in that document stated the plaintiff was “disabled” or contained information regarding his impairments.

The appeals court noted the plaintiff did not have an attorney at the hearing–he did have one on appeal–and that under the circumstances, it “might have been prudent for the ALJ to develop the record” further on this issue. But at the end of the day, this still did not render the ALJ's decision invalid, as she did take note of the plaintiff's testimony regarding the Illinois benefits, while ultimately “relying on the other evidence in the record that substantially supports her conclusions.”

Speak with an Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Today

Too many disability claims fail because Social Security found there was insufficient evidence in the record. One way to help avoid such an outcome in your own case is to work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who understands how to properly develop and present evidence to an ALJ. Call Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team today.




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