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Assessing Disability Claims Made By "Persons of Advanced Age"

 Posted on October 08, 2015 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

persons of advanced age, Chicago SSDI lawyerThere are special rules that apply to Social Security Disability insurance applicants over the age of 55. Such “persons of advanced age” are presumed disabled if they are limited to “light or sedentary work” and have no skills that are transferable from prior work experience. This means a person who has spent most of their life working in one type of job cannot be denied disability benefits because they are unable to learn a new type of vocation later in life. Nor can Social Security officials hold prior work experience against a person of advanced age when assessing a claim for benefits.

Social Security Relies on Outdated Job Descriptions

Unfortunately, Social Security officials do not always follow their own rules. Here is a recent example involving an Illinois woman who was denied disability benefits. The applicant was 57-years-old at the time of her hearing before Social Security. She previously worked for more than 30 years as a pay phone collector, someone who collected 60-pound coin boxes. Her position was eliminated in 2005, and she was offered early retirement.

Six years later, the woman applied for Social Security disability benefits, claiming she had been unable to work since 2009 due to chronic neck and back pain, among other ailments. Social Security officials determined the applicant suffered from multiple “severe impairments,” yet ultimately denied her claim for benefits, finding she “retained the capacity to perform a full range of light work.” Among other things, Social Security rejected the applicant's testimony she could not “stand or walk for more than 15 minutes at a time,” noting she was still capable of performing “household chores.”

On appeal, a federal magistrate judge said “it's not clear what” Social Security meant by that argument. The magistrate noted the courts have “repeatedly chastised” Social Security “for failing to recognize the difference between performing household chores and holding down a 40-hour-a-week job.” And in any event, the applicant here could not perform even “limited activities without help.”

The magistrate went on to criticize Social Security's characterization of the applicant's work history. The agency noted she did not stop working in 2005 due to any health issues. But as the magistrate explained, she stopped working because “[p]ay phones went the way of the dinosaurs,” and her job was no longer necessary. Social Security argued she was still capable of “light work” as a “coin machine collector,” but the magistrate pointed out there was no evidence any such jobs existed anymore. Indeed, Social Security relied on a 30-year-old job catalog to define the work of a “coin machine collector.”

The obsolescence of the applicant's former work, which was unskilled to begin with, also demonstrated she lacked any transferable job skills, according to the magistrate. Accordingly, the magistrate ordered Social Security to reconsider the woman's application for disability benefits.

Get Help from a Disability Lawyer

If you are disabled and over the age of 55, or have worked in a now-obsolete trade, it is important to work with an experienced Chicago Social Security Disability benefits attorney. Pearson Disability Law, LLC, can help you with at all stages of your application and appeal. Contact us today if you would like to speak with someone right away.



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