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How Does Using a Cane Affect My Disability Claim?

 Posted on October 15, 2018 in Social Security Disability

Illinois Social Security disability lawyer stroke victimOne sign that you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits is the need to use a cane in order to walk or stand for prolonged periods of time. While the use of a cane does not automatically mean you are legally disabled, it does provide strong evidence that you are unable to perform the type of activities typically associated with full-time work. At the same time, Social Security officials may attempt to minimize or discount the importance of your need to use a cane as a pretext for rejecting your disability application.

Social Security Ordered to Reconsider Stroke Victim's Case

Consider a recent disability case from here in Illinois. The plaintiff in this case was a man in his early 50s. Five years ago, he suffered a heart attack followed by a stroke. As a result, he continues to experience weakness on the left side of his body, which requires him to use a cane for walking.

The plaintiff subsequently applied for disability benefits. A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected the plaintiff's claim, however, finding that despite his impairments, the plaintiff could still “work or stand for six hours in an eight-hour day and that he could do so without his cane.”

On appeal, a federal judge held that the ALJ's reasoning was insufficient and returned the case to Social Security for a new hearing. The federal judge was careful not to express his own views as to whether the plaintiff was disabled, or even that his use of a cane was medically necessary. Rather, the judge said the ALJ “failed to fully explore the issue of plaintiff's cane use.” The ALJ appeared to infer that the use of a cane was unnecessary, because there was no mention of one in his medical records after January 2014. However, as the federal judge noted, this could mean that the plaintiff “had simply accepted the fact that he would need to use a cane for the rest of his life and thus believed that it was not worth further discussion at every doctor visit.” In any case, it is the ALJ's job to dig deeper and, if necessary, seek testimony from a medical expert rather than play doctor himself.

Additionally, the judge said the ALJ failed to adequately explain how the plaintiff was capable of “prolonged walking and standing” despite his continuing left-side weakness. The ALJ pointed to the plaintiff's daily activities–e.g., his ability to cook and take care of his pets–as proof he could move around just fine. However, as federal courts have repeatedly said, and the judge in this case reiterated, Social Security cannot simply equate such activities with the ability to hold down a full-time job.

Speak With a Cook County Social Security Disability Attorney Today

If you require a cane or similar medical device to deal with a physical condition, it is always a good idea to get a doctor's prescription or supporting documentation in the event you need to demonstrate medical necessity to Social Security. If you need legal advice or assistance from a qualified Chicago disability benefits lawyer, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC today at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation.




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