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How Does a Functional Capacity Evaluation Affect My Case for Disability Benefits?

 Posted on May 30, 2018 in Already Applied for Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, disability claim, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, functional capacity evaluation, disability applicantOne of the key steps in applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits is receiving a functional capacity evaluation (FCE). This is basically a test designed to objectively assess your ability to perform different degrees of work, taking into account your physical and mental impairments. An FCE generally places you into one of five categories, ranging from “ability to perform heavy work” to “unable to perform sedentary work.”

ALJ Fails to Meet “Minimum Articulation” Standard

Social Security officials are expected to take an FCE into account when deciding whether or not to grant your application for disability benefits. Although a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) does not have to accept the FCE's findings at face value, he or she must point to specific reasons for discounting or disregarding the evaluator's opinions. It is not enough for the ALJ to simply state he or she disagrees with the FCE's conclusions.

Of course, that does not mean we do not see cases where this happens. Recently, a federal magistrate here in Illinois ordered Social Security to reconsider the disability application of a 54-year-old woman after the ALJ overseeing the case decided to give “no weight” to the FCE.

The applicant suffers from a number of ailments, including “severe degenerative joint disease in both knees, obesity, and bipolar disorder,” according to court records. A qualified examiner conducted an FCE of the applicant about seven months after her “date last insured,” i.e. the date past which the applicant was no longer eligible for disability benefits. The examiner determines the applicant was disabled due to her “inability to perform prolonged act[s], like standing and walking.”

The ALJ disregarded this conclusion. In a written opinion denying the applicant's disability claim, the ALJ spent just a few sentences discussing the FCE. In short, the ALJ said the FCE was worthless because “[i]t was rendered well after the date of last insured” and “inconsistent with the other medical evidence” in the record.

On appeal, the magistrate said the ALJ's analysis was “boilerplate” and so haphazard that it actually “misidentified the name of the treater who conducted the FCE.” But more to the point, the ALJ never bothered to cite “any specific medical or opinion that contradicts the FCE.” Instead, the ALJ made a broad statement that the FCE was contradicted by “the evidence of the whole.” The magistrate said this conclusion was “impermissible” under the law, which requires at least a “minimum articulation” of reasons for disregarding evidence that supports the applicant's disability claim.

Speak With an Illinois Social Security Disability Lawyer Today

Social Security is often quick to deny legitimate claims for disability benefits. It is often much slower to give credible reasons for such denials. This is why it is so important to work with a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer who understands the law and will hold Social Security accountable. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today if you are considering pursuing a Social Security claim and require assistance.



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