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Can a Social Security Disability Appeal Reweigh Medical Evidence?

 Posted on February 12, 2021 in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

Illinois disability attorney

Those who suffer from physical or mental conditions that make it difficult or impossible to work will often be concerned about their ability to support themselves financially. Fortunately, Social Security disability benefits are available in many cases. However, the process of applying for Social Security disability can be complicated, and disability claims are often denied for a variety of reasons. While it is possible to appeal the decision to deny disability benefits, it is important to understand the procedures followed when doing so and the types of evidence that may be considered in an appeal.

Appeals Court Upholds Decision to Deny Benefits and Refuses to Reweigh Evidence

If a disability claim is denied, an applicant will usually need to file a request for reconsideration, and if benefits are once again denied, they may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Both sides will present evidence at this hearing, and the ALJ will follow specific procedures to determine whether the applicant is disabled and whether they should be able to find work that fits within their physical or mental limitations. If an ALJ rules that a person is not disabled, the applicant can appeal this decision. However, an appeal must be based on the claim that the ALJ committed errors, and an applicant cannot introduce new evidence or ask the appeals court to reconsider or reinterpret previous evidence.

A recent Illinois case illustrates the types of arguments that can and cannot be made in a Social Security disability appeal. In the case of Angela H. v. Commissioner of Social Security, the plaintiff was a 43-year-old woman who suffered from impairments including obesity, degenerative disc disease, depression, and personality disorder. After considering the evidence presented at her hearing, the ALJ found that the plaintiff could perform light work, including sitting and standing at a light exertional level and pushing and pulling at a sedentary level. A vocational expert testified that these limitations would allow the plaintiff to perform jobs such as a production worker or cleaner, and because of this, the ALJ determined that the plaintiff was not disabled and denied disability benefits.

In her appeal, the plaintiff argued that the ALJ did not consider knee and spine conditions that limited her movements, that the ALJ did not give proper weight to a mental assessment performed by an advanced practice nurse (APN), and that the ALJ did not properly consider the plaintiff’s own testimony about her condition, including her need to use a cane. The appeals court magistrate found that the ALJ gave proper consideration to the plaintiff’s physical conditions based on evaluations and examinations performed by multiple providers and that the ALJ was correct in favoring the opinion of another doctor over the APN since the APN’s assessment was provided in a “checkbox” form without any supporting rationale. The judge also stated that there was no medical documentation showing that she needed to use a cane, and the ALJ was not required to accept the accuracy of the plaintiff’s subjective complaints, especially if they were not backed up by medical evidence.

Since the plaintiff was unable to show that the ALJ made any errors when considering the evidence, the magistrate rejected her arguments and stated that she was asking for the appeals court to reweigh the evidence to reach different conclusions. Because of this, the ALJ’s decision to deny disability benefits was affirmed.

Contact a Cook County Social Security Disability Appeals Lawyer

If you are looking to appeal a denial of disability benefits, you will want to make sure you are making the right arguments based on the evidence that was presented in your case. Pearson Disability Law, LLC can provide skilled and experienced representation in a Social Security disability appeal, and we will help you take the right steps to receive the benefits you deserve. Contact our Chicago Social Security disability claim attorney today at 312-999-0999 to arrange a free consultation.




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