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Will Social Security Deny My Disability Claim Because I Take Care of My Children?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

Chicago social security disability lawyerOne of the factors that Social Security looks at in reviewing a claim for disability benefits is how an applicant’s medical impairments affect his or her ability to perform “activities of daily living.” In other words, Social Security wants to know whether the applicant’s disability is severe enough to restrict his or her ability to perform basic tasks such as driving and other “daily living” activities. The presumption is that a person who is able to perform activities of daily living without significant restriction, therefore, should also be able to hold down a full-time job.

Judge Blasts Social Security for Using Child’s Medical Care to Deny Mother’s Disability Claim

The reality, however, is that Social Security often overstates the importance of daily living activities. In many cases, their findings regarding such activities are merely a pretext for declaring the disability applicant’s claim lacks credibility. Social Security is routinely criticized by federal courts for this practice.

Here is a recent example. An Illinois woman in her mid-20s applied for disability benefits. According to her doctor, the applicant had suffered from “severe and disabling pain” for more than eight years due to multiple knee surgeries and a car accident. The doctor stated in a written opinion that the applicant’s condition had not improved and that she was “completely and totally disabled from any occupation.”

Social Security nevertheless rejected her disability claim. The administrative law judge (ALJ) who reviewed the applicant’s case declared that she was not disabled because, among other reasons, she “appears to be taking care of a small child” and had made “multiple” driving trips to St. Louis. These daily living activities suggested to the ALJ that the applicant had somehow exaggerated or misrepresented the limiting effects of her medical condition.

On appeal, a federal judge said the ALJ’s conclusions rested on “shaky factual grounds.” For instance, the “multiple” driving trips to St. Louis. The judge said the ALJ’s account “gives the misleading impression that [applicant] was routinely taking long car trips without difficulty.” In fact, the applicant had only made two trips to St. Louis—both times to seek medical care for one of her children, who “had failing kidneys and might have kidney cancer.”

The judge noted a parent’s “heroic” efforts on behalf of a child should not be confused with the normal limits on a person’s daily activities due to a documented medical disorder. Yet in this case, the judge said the ALJ essentially used the applicant’s concern for her daughter to try and brand her a liar. The judge said that was unacceptable conduct on the part of Social Security and ordered the agency to reconsider the applicant’s case.

Speak With an Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Today

This case is yet another illustration of how far Social Security can go to reject a disability claim. Every aspect of an applicant’s personal life becomes potential grounds for denying benefits. That is why if you are dealing with Social Security, you need to have an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer by your side. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need to speak with an attorney right away.



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