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Chicago Social Security Disability AttorneyThere are multiple different types of health conditions that a person may experience that may affect their ability to provide for themselves. In addition to conditions that affect a person’s physical health and capabilities, a variety of mental conditions can impact a person’s ability to work. These include intellectual disabilities that place limitations on the types of work a person can perform. A person who suffers from a condition that is considered a disability may be able to apply for Social Security disability benefits. One issue that can play a role in these cases is a person’s ability to maintain the proper concentration, persistence, or pace while working.

Magistrate Overrules Denial of Benefits Based on Failure to Consider Concentration, Persistence, or Pace

One recent case that was addressed in Illinois courts illustrates how concentration issues may be considered when determining eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. In the case of David N. v. Commissioner of Social Security, the plaintiff appealed the denial of Social Security disability benefits by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), stating that the ALJ did not include limitations related to concentration, persistence, or pace when assessing the plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (RFC).

Based on medical records and evidence, the ALJ determined that the plaintiff had borderline intellectual functioning that resulted in moderate limitations on his ability to understand information, remember details, and apply this information to the work being performed. These moderate limitations also affected his ability to concentrate on work and maintain a consistent pace while working. However, even with these limitations, the ALJ determined that the plaintiff had the RFC to perform work at all levels of exertion while being limited to following simple instructions and carrying out routine tasks. Since the plaintiff would be able to find jobs where he could perform unskilled, light work that fits these limitations, the ALJ denied disability benefits.

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IL disability lawyerThere are multiple different types of conditions that can affect a person’s ability to work and earn an income. Fortunately, Social Security disability benefits can provide much-needed financial assistance in these cases. However, disability claims may be denied for a variety of different reasons. When appealing a denial of disability benefits, a person’s case will be reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ may consider multiple different forms of evidence when determining whether a person is disabled, and one issue that they may consider is whether the daily activities a person performs demonstrate that they are or are not disabled.

Magistrate Overturns ALJ’s Decision Based on Improper Consideration of Subjective Symptoms

A recent decision in Illinois courts illustrates the role that a person’s daily activities may play in an ALJ’s determination of whether a person is disabled. In the case of Steven L. v. Saul, the plaintiff was a 49-year-old man who suffered from chronic liver disease, asthma, neuropathy, and affective disorder. While the ALJ found that the plaintiff’s impairments made him incapable of resuming his past work as a neurologist, she ruled that he could work in jobs where he was limited to light work and simple, routine tasks.

The ALJ’s decision was based in part on the plaintiff’s ability to participate in daily activities, specifically noting that the plaintiff stated that he regularly engaged in driving, using a computer, and caring for his children. The ALJ determined that the plaintiff’s ability to participate in these types of activities undermined his claims that he suffered limitations that affected his ability to find or maintain employment.

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IL disability lawyerA new rule that went into effect December 16, 2020, could make it harder for disabled individuals seeking to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. The rule changes the disability appeals process by allowing attorneys who work for the Social Security Administration to conduct hearings and make decisions on whether the claimant is eligible for benefits. Up until December, these hearings were always overseen by independent and impartial administrative law judges (ALJ).

Social Security Disability Benefits Process

It is important for anyone who is applying for Social Security disability to understand how complicated and drawn out this process often is and why it can be critical to have an experienced Chicago disability attorney advocating for you. There can be up to four steps in applying for benefits:

  • Initial application: Many people file their initial request for disability benefits either online or over the phone. It is rare that an applicant’s initial application is approved at this stage. If a claim is denied, the applicant can request a reconsideration.
  • Reconsideration: An applicant has 60 days from their date of denial to file a Request for Reconsideration. The Social Security Administration will again review the application. Sometimes, at this level, the agency will approve the applicant’s claim and they will begin receiving benefits. However, it is also very common for the agency to deny the claim again. If this occurs, the applicant can request a hearing.
  • Hearing: An applicant again has 60 days from the day their Request for Reconsideration was denied to file a Request for a Hearing. The hearing usually takes place at the applicant’s local Social Security Administration Office in front of an ALJ. It is highly recommended that the applicant has a qualified disability attorney who is experienced in defending denied Social Security disability benefits. Once the attorney presents all the evidence on behalf of the applicant, the ALJ will decide if the claim should be approved. If the ALJ denies the claim, the applicant can appeal the decision to the Appeals Council.
  • Appeals Council: These appeal hearings are decided by administrative appeal judges (AAJ). Unlike an ALJ, who is impartial and independent, an AAJ works directly for the Social Security Administration. The role of the AAJ is not to evaluate the applicant’s case, but only to determine if the ALJ made a technical error or did not consider any relevant medical information during the hearing.

New Policy

Under the new policy, those same AAJs will now be allowed to hear and decide hearings instead of or in addition to ALJs and this could have a detrimental impact on an applicant’s ability to obtain a fair and just hearing. In addition to requiring ALJs to be independent and impartial from the Social Security Administration, they also are required to have a minimum of seven years experience as a licensed and practicing attorney and have significant experience in trials and litigation.

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