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Assessing the Impact of Your Mental Disability on Workplace Productivity

IL disability lawyerMental impairments, such as bipolar disorder, often make it impossible for a person to focus on their work. When applying for disability benefits, Social Security officials often discuss an applicant's “concentration, persistence, and pace” to describe this focus, or lack thereof. Essentially, if the symptoms of your mental disorder–or even the treatment for your disorder–reduce your overall productivity in the workplace, that is a crucial piece of evidence in support of your claim for disability benefits.

Illinois Woman Granted New Hearing After Social Security Failed to Properly Assess Limits on Her Concentration, Persistence, and Pace

If a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) fails to properly account for limitations in your concentration, persistence, and pace, you may be entitled to a new hearing. This is precisely what happened in a recent Illinois disability case, Thea P. v. Saul. The plaintiff in this case filed for disability more than 5 years ago, citing a number of mental impairments, including bipolar disorder and depression.

In denying the plaintiff's application, the ALJ nevertheless found that she had “moderate difficulties of concentration, persistence, or pace.” During the hearing, the ALJ questioned a vocational expert (VE). Such experts commonly testify in disability hearings; their role is to explain the types and number of jobs a person could hold, taking into account certain limitations. Here, the ALJ asked the VE to consider the hypothetical employment opportunities for an individual who was limited to “performing more than simple routine tasks” without having to meet any “strict quotas” for production.

On appeal, a federal magistrate judge found the ALJ's hypothetical question to be inadequate. The magistrate noted that moderate difficulties with concentration, persistence, or pace did not equal the ability to perform “simple routine tasks.” Rather, this spoke to the plaintiff's ability to “adapt” or “manage” herself in the workplace. Similarly, limiting the plaintiff to jobs without strict quotas was not a valid “proxy” for her mental limitations.

What the ALJ needed to consider, according to the magistrate, was how often the plaintiff would be “off-task” during a typical workday. And in fact, the ALJ did raise this issue with the VE. The VE testified that a normal employer would not “tolerate” a worker who was off-task more than 15 percent of the day or absent more than one day per month. The ALJ failed to incorporate this testimony into his findings, the magistrate said, so a new hearing was necessary.

Speak with an Illinois Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

Social Security regulations do not require a disability applicant to prove they are wholly incapable of performing any activities. The question is whether or not you can do substantial work on a sustained basis. Any medical condition or treatment that limits your ability to be productive must, therefore, be given proper consideration by Social Security officials.

If you need help applying for disability benefits or making your case to an ALJ, a qualified Chicago Social Security attorney can help. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.




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