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Can My Employment Record Help Make My Case for Disability Benefits?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

IL disability lawyerMental disorders often pose unique challenges for individuals seeking Social Security disability benefits. It is not always easy to measure the impact of a mental impairment in the same way as a physical limitation. This is why Social Security regulations require agency officials to consider “any other relevant evidence” in addition to an applicant's medical records when assessing the severity of a mental impairment.

Federal Appeals Court Orders New Disability Hearing After Social Security Judge Ignores Evidence

Of course, Social Security has a habit of not always following its own regulations. A recent example of this came in a decision from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago, Dunn v. Saul. The plaintiff in this case held down a number of jobs through 2012, at which point he claimed he could no longer work due to his “memory loss.”

A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) subsequently reviewed the plaintiff's application and determined his memory loss was not “severe” enough to justify an award of disability benefits. On appeal to the Seventh Circuit, the plaintiff argued the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. The appeals court agreed with the plaintiff and returned the case to Social Security for a new hearing.

The Seventh Circuit identified two key problems with the ALJ's decision. First, the ALJ did “altogether failed to consider [the plaintiff's] employment records.” During his hearing before the ALJ, the plaintiff submitted such record for the last two years that he worked, as a retail supervisor. According to the records, the plaintiff “received 30 reprimands in 18 months” for tardiness, absenteeism, and failure to “follow instructions and complete tasks.” Taken as a whole, the appeals court said the employment records painted a picture of the plaintiff's declining work performance.

The ALJ did not have to accept the employment records as definitive proof that the plaintiff's performance was the result of his memory loss. Indeed, the Seventh Circuit said the ALJ could well have considered the records and given them “little weight” in his final decision. But what the ALJ actually did was “disregard them completely,” which the appeals court said was “impermissible” under Social Security's own regulations.

The second major problem identified by the Court was the ALJ's decision to reject the evidence regarding the effects of his memory loss on his “daily activities and social interactions.” Here, the ALJ not only disregarded the testimony of the plaintiff himself, but also that of his daughter, who explained how her father was unable to live on his own or help take care of his grandchildren. Yet the ALJ concluded the plaintiff had “no limitation” in his social functioning without bothering to explain “which aspects of [the plaintiff's] testimony he rejected and why.” Again, this is impermissible with Social Security regulations, thus requiring a new hearing.

Speak with an Illinois Social Security Attorney Today

It is bad enough to struggle with a mental impairment that prevents you from working or living a normal life. It is even worse when Social Security goes to extraordinary lengths to deny you have a legal disability. This is why it is important to work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who can help you ensure that Social Security follows its own regulations. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.



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