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Does Taking Care of My Children Mean I Am Not Disabled?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

Chicago disability lawyerEven when the medical evidence shows a person suffers from multiple–even dozens–of physical or mental impairments, that may still not convince Social Security that a person is entitled to disability benefits. One reason for this is that Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) will frequently try to minimize or disregard a disability applicant's own description of their pain and other symptoms. Now, an ALJ is allowed to decide how much weight to give such subjective complaints. But the ALJ's findings must ultimately be rooted in the available medical evidence, not some “gut feeling.” That is to say, the ALJ must identify specific inconsistencies between the applicant's complaints and the rest of the evidentiary record.

Magistrate Rejects Social Security's Use of Disability Applicant's Pregnancy, Childcare Responsibilities as Pretext for Denying Benefits

Let's look at a recent Illinois disability case where the ALJ did not do this. In Sylvia C. v. Saul, a Social Security ALJ rejected a 41-year-old woman's application for benefits. There was no question the plaintiff had medical issues: The ALJ identified no fewer than 16 physical and mental impairments–included 9 “severe” conditions–based on the plaintiff's medical records. Nevertheless, the ALJ said the plaintiff did not meet the legal qualifications for disability.

A key reason was that the ALJ found the plaintiff's “statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of [her] symptoms [were] not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record.” On appeal, a federal magistrate judge disagreed. The magistrate said it was the ALJ's conclusions that were not adequately supported by the record. While the magistrate did not find the plaintiff was entitled to disability benefits, the court did order the ALJ to conduct a new hearing.

One issue that the magistrate identified revolved around one of the plaintiff's pregnancies. The ALJ seemed to believe that the plaintiff had stopped working primarily due to her pregnancy as opposed to her medical impairments. The magistrate pointed out that what the plaintiff actually said at her disability hearing was that “it was very difficult because of [her] other illnesses on top of a pregnancy” to keep working, and that her doctor told her to “go home.” This indicated the plaintiff's impairments “contributed to her decision to stop working.”

The ALJ also cited the fact the plaintiff was caring for her children as proof that her activities were “inconsistent” with her statements that she had “difficulty performing personal care activities,” such as performing household chores.

Again, the magistrate took exception to the ALJ's reading of the situation. For one thing, “taking care of one's children is a necessity, not a 'household chore.'” More to the point, the plaintiff explained that she expends most of her energy taking care of her youngest child, after which she is typically spent and unable to perform any other household activities. On a “good day,” she could perform limited basic activities, such as cooking and dressing herself. The magistrate said such limited activities were consistent with the symptoms of the plaintiff's various medical impairments.

Speak with a Chicago Disability Benefits Lawyer Today

It may come as a surprise to you that Social Security officials take such a harsh stance towards mothers struggling to juggle childcare with their disabilities. But when it comes to disability cases, you should never assume the agency will place compassion over their own bottom-line. That is why it is crucial to work with an experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney who will fight for your rights. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.




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