33 N. Dearborn Street, Suite 1130, Chicago, IL 60602

5 Convenient Locations

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Youtube


call us312-999-0999fax312-999-8999

Will it Take a Decade to Decide My Disability Case?

 Posted on November 03, 2016 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

b2ap3_thumbnail_disability-case-Chicago.jpgApplying for Social Security Disability insurance benefits is not a simple process. It is certainly not a quick process either. Many claims languish for several years and require multiple hearings before an applicant starts to receive benefits.

Appeals Court Refuses to End Case After Nine Years

Sadly, even in extreme cases, applicants are forced to go through multiple rounds of court hearings just to receive fair treatment. A recent decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago illustrates just how laborious the process can be. This particular Social Security claim has been pending for nearly a decade, and it has yet to be resolved.

The applicant in this case has not worked since 2003. Two years earlier, he suffered a serious back injury that eventually required surgery. The surgery failed to relieve the applicant’s chronic pain, however, and even today he still requires regular pain medication treatments that are only partially effective. The applicant is also unable to afford certain medically recommended treatments because they are not covered by his insurance.

The applicant filed his first claim for Social Security Disability insurance benefits nine years ago, in October 2007. An administrative law judge (ALJ) held a hearing and denied the claim. An internal appeals panel at the Social Security Administration (SSA) found the ALJ’s decision was “not supported by substantial evidence.” The same ALJ then held a second hearing and again denied the applicant’s claim. The ALJ was so eager to reject the applicant, she apparently did not wait for the results of a medical exam—that the ALJ herself ordered—before rendering her second decision.

Once again, the SSA agreed that its own ALJ failed to do her job properly. This time, the agency reassigned the case for a third hearing to a different ALJ. By this point, nearly seven years had elapsed. Unfortunately, the change of judge did not help the applicant, whose claim was denied a third time.

The case now moved into federal court. Normally a district judge has the authority to remand a case to Social Security, which here would mean the agency would get a fourth crack at the bat. The applicant, understandably tired of this process, instead asked the district judge to forego the remand and simply order SSA to award him disability benefits.

The district court said that while there was substantial evidence of the applicant’s disability, the case was not so “one-sided” as to justify a direct award of benefits. The judge therefore ordered remand. The applicant appealed that decision to the Seventh Circuit.

Unfortunately, the Seventh Circuit said the district judge did not abuse his discretion. Although the applicant “presents a strong claim for the award of disability benefits,” and the SSA has failed multiple time to “gather the evidence to make the findings necessary” to determine whether the applicant is capable of working, the appeals court said there were enough “uncertainties” in this case to require a fourth hearing. While the Seventh Circuit acknowledged the applicant’s “patience has understandably grown thin,” that was not enough to end the case at this time. The Court did, however, admonish the SSA to “expedite the proceedings” on remand.

Get Help From an Illinois Social Security Disability Lawyer

Although nine-plus years is an unusual length of time for a disability case to last, it illustrates how difficult it is to deal with Social Security. Even a routine disability application can take a few years and more than one hearing. Therefore, working with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer is a necessity. Contact the offices of Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need immediate help in dealing with Social Security.



Share this post:

You are not alone. Call now for a FREE consultation 312-999-0999

Unable to travel to my office? No problem! No office visit required.

dupage county bar association Chicago abr association nosscr Super Lawyer
Back to Top