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Cook County disability benefits attorneySocial Security disability programs are designed to assist individuals who are unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment. Disability decisions are not supposed to be a judgment on the applicant's character or past conduct. However, Social Security officials often discount disability claims raised by individuals with criminal records or who are not considered “sympathetic” or “likable” enough.

Magistrate: Social Security Failed to Properly Assess Ex-Con's Mental Disorders

Such considerations, however, have no relevance under Social Security regulations. When an agency administrative law judge (ALJ) takes procedural shortcuts with an applicant they dislike, a federal court may intervene and decide that the applicant is entitled to a new hearing.

This is precisely what happened in one recent Illinois Social Security disability case. The plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits in 2014. (SSI follows similar rules to Social Security Disability Insurance when it comes to assessing an applicant's physical and mental impairments.) For the eight years prior to the plaintiff's application, he was serving a prison sentence.

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Cook County disability benefits lawyer, disability benefits, disability claim, chronic pain, medical evidenceSocial Security administrative law judges (ALJs) frequently go to extraordinary lengths to discredit and discount the impact chronic pain has on a person's ability to work—or even simply live a normal life. Although a litany of regulations and federal court decisions reject such a draconian approach to disability cases, we continue to see applicants with legitimate claims are turned away by the arbitrary and capricious decisions of ALJs.

Illinois Magistrate Identifies Multiple Errors in Disability Decision

Consider one recent example. In this case, a female applicant suffering from a variety of impairments—hypertension, diabetes, and asthma—filed for disability benefits in 2013. In 2016, Social Security denied her application, in large part because the ALJ overseeing the case rejected the applicant's testimony regarding the effects of her chronic pain and other symptoms. The woman then sought review of Social Security's denial with an Illinois federal magistrate judge.

In August of this year, the magistrate held that the woman was entitled to a new hearing because the ALJ's decision reached conclusions that were “legally insufficient and not supported by substantial evidence.” Problems identified by the magistrate included the following:

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Social Security disability benefits, Cook County disability benefits lawyer, disability denials, traumatic brain injury, seizure disorderThere are some injuries that are so severe you would assume they automatically qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits. Unfortunately, that is not how the system works. Even in cases where an applicant has clearly sustained a medical injury that prevents him or her from working, Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) will look for any reason they can find to declare the person not disabled.

Seventh Circuit Issues Rare Order Directly Awarding Disability Benefits

Recently, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago addressed a particularly outrageous case of “disability denial” on the part of Social Security. The plaintiff in this lawsuit fell down a flight of stairs 18 years ago and sustained a “traumatic brain injury” in the process. More than a decade later, he sought disability benefits.

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