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How Far Will Social Security Go to Justify Denying My Disability Claim?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

Cook County disability benefits lawyer, disability benefits, disability claim, chronic pain, medical evidenceSocial Security administrative law judges (ALJs) frequently go to extraordinary lengths to discredit and discount the impact chronic pain has on a person's ability to work—or even simply live a normal life. Although a litany of regulations and federal court decisions reject such a draconian approach to disability cases, we continue to see applicants with legitimate claims are turned away by the arbitrary and capricious decisions of ALJs.

Illinois Magistrate Identifies Multiple Errors in Disability Decision

Consider one recent example. In this case, a female applicant suffering from a variety of impairments—hypertension, diabetes, and asthma—filed for disability benefits in 2013. In 2016, Social Security denied her application, in large part because the ALJ overseeing the case rejected the applicant's testimony regarding the effects of her chronic pain and other symptoms. The woman then sought review of Social Security's denial with an Illinois federal magistrate judge.

In August of this year, the magistrate held that the woman was entitled to a new hearing because the ALJ's decision reached conclusions that were “legally insufficient and not supported by substantial evidence.” Problems identified by the magistrate included the following:

  • The ALJ found the plaintiff's “daily activities” undercut her claims of chronic pain. However, the magistrate said the ALJ did little more than list some of the woman's activities without providing any context. Indeed, the ALJ failed to offer any “specific examples of contradictions” between the applicant's testimony and her actual daily activities.

  • The ALJ pointed to the applicant's prior work history as proof her medical impairments were not that severe. Yet once again, the magistrate said this conclusion ignored contest. The ALJ failed to inquire as to the applicant's “absentee rates, need for breaks, or challenges” while she worked. More to the point, the applicant only earned between $300 and $400 in her prior work, which falls below the threshold for “substantial gainful activity” under Social Security regulations.

  • The ALJ said the fact the applicant continued looking for work after she applied for disability undermined her credibility. This is not a valid argument, the magistrate said, as an applicant's “desire” to work does not necessarily conflict with their “inability” to work as the result of a disability.

Get Help with Your Social Security Disability Claim

When reviewing a disability case, Social Security is required to look at all medical evidence presented. The best way to make sure Social Security follows this mandate, and does not try and take any extra-legal shortcuts, is to work with an experienced Cook County disability benefits lawyer who understands the system. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today if you need help applying for Social Security benefits, or challenging a decision denying such benefits.



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