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Does Looking for Work Disqualify Me from Seeking Disability Benefits?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

IL disability lawyerThe Social Security disability application process often puts individuals in a bind. On the one hand, the law requires proof they are unable to hold down even a “sedentary” position. On the other hand, many applicants feel they need to at least apply for work, if for no other reason than to have some source of income while waiting to hear back from Social Security.

But will apply for a job–or even multiple jobs–doom your disability benefits application? The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees disability cases here in Illinois, has said in the past that a “job search” by itself does not discredit an applicant's disability claim. In many cases, looking for work may simply reflect a strong internal work ethic or an “overly optimistic outlook” about one's job prospects. But in other cases, Social Security or a court may consider job applications as part of the overall evidence supporting or undermining an individual's claims.

Social Security Denies Disability After ALJ Suggests Applicant “Lost His Motivation to Work”

A recent example of the latter is Primm v. Saul, a recent Seventh Circuit decision where the Court affirmed Social Security's decision to reject a disability claim. The plaintiff in this case applied for disability benefits, alleging he was unable to work from 2006 through 2014 due to a variety of impairments. A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that despite the plaintiff's ailments, he was still capable of performing “sedentary work” during the relevant period and was therefore not legally disabled.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the ALJ's decision. But the Court did note one “weak” aspect of the ALJ's reasoning, namely the fact the plaintiff “applied to 200 jobs” during 2009 and 2010, during the time when he claimed to be disabled. After repeating the Court's prior view that a job search is not evidence of a person's ability to work, the Seventh Circuit went on to say the ALJ did not “view this fact in isolation.”

Rather, the ALJ also “observed” that the plaintiff “may have lost his motivation to work” in 2011, which is when he started receiving workers' compensation payments. The ALJ also noted the plaintiff had “reported less severe symptoms to his doctors than he testified to” at his disability hearing. And the plaintiff “did not receive ongoing treatment” for his impairments, even though he was insured. All of these factors taken together, the Seventh Circuit said, were enough to discredit the plaintiff's claims.

Speak with a Cook County, Illinois, Social Security Attorney

In any disability hearing, the ALJ will go looking for reasons to find you are not disabled. That is why your best chance at success is working with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who can prepare your case and ensure the Social Security Administration receives a complete and accurate picture of your condition. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation with a Social Security lawyer today.



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