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Am I Legally Disabled if I Suffered Multiple Strokes?

Posted by on in Social Security Disability

legally disabled, Social Security disability benefits, effects of a stroke,  Chicago Social Security disability lawyer, stroke victimsStrokes are one of the leading causes of long-term disability in the United States, according to figures published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year—and roughly 25 percent of those individuals have had at least one previous stroke. Overall, the CDC estimates strokes cost the United States about $34 billion annually in health care services and lost productivity.

Federal Appeals Court Rejects Social Security's Findings on Disability Applicant's Need for Cane

In many cases, stroke victims are left unable to work and may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. These cases pose a special challenge for disability claimants, since the long-term and residual effects of a stroke are not always as readily ascertainable as other kinds of impairments. Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) also have an unfortunate habit of going out of their way to minimize a stroke victim's disability as a pretext for denying benefits.

Consider this recent decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago. The plaintiff in this case worked as a bus driver for the City of Chicago. Seven years ago, he suffered his second stroke in two years, which forced him to spend several days in the hospital. After he was discharged, the Chicago Transit Authority fired him. To further compound the situation, the plaintiff was not eligible for CTA pension benefits and was eventually left homeless.

The plaintiff subsequently sought disability benefits from Social Security. At a hearing before the ALJ, a critical issue was the plaintiff's use of a cane. Doctors initially prescribed the cane as medically necessary immediately following the plaintiff's second stroke. Since then, the plaintiff testified he “limps when he walks and continues to depend on his cane for balance.” The plaintiff's former treating physician confirmed that while the plaintiff “needs a cane to walk.”

However, the ALJ apparently decided the plaintiff did not really need the cane to walk. During the hearing, the ALJ abruptly cut off a medical expert who took notice of the plaintiff's cane. Additionally, the ALJ's final decision claimed that statements from two other medical experts who reviewed the plaintiff's condition established he did not require a cane. Based on this, the ALJ determined the plaintiff's testimony regarding his disability lacked credibility and denied his claim for benefits.

However, the Seventh Circuit said it was the ALJ, not the plaintiff, whose statements lacked credibility. The Court noted the two expert reports cited by the ALJ did not actually support the conclusion that the plaintiff could walk without a cane. One expert actually said the plaintiff “could walk more than 50 feet without a cane.” But this was not the same thing as saying the plaintiff “could stand and walk unassisted for six of eight hours in a work day.” For this and other reasons, the Seventh Circuit returned the case to Social Security, ordering it to conduct a new hearing on the applicant's disability claim.

Speak With an Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Today

You would think Social Security officials would exercise more care and compassion when dealing with a victim of multiple strokes. But that is not how Social Security views its mission. This is why you need to work with an experienced Chicago Social Security disability lawyer who will fight for your interests. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today if you are disabled, unable to work, and need legal advice on how to proceed.


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