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Can Social Security Ignore Evidence of a Severe Disability?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

severe disability, denied claim, Chicago Social Security Disability AttorneyApplicants for Social Security Disability insurance often present evidence of multiple ailments. For purposes of granting or rejecting a claim, Social Security need not find all of an applicant's ailments are serious enough to constitute a disability. However, if the agency determines any of a claimant's ailments are “severe,” the law requires Social Security consider the “aggregate effect of this entire constellation of ailments including those impairments that in isolation are not severe.” Unfortunately, Social Security officials often fail to follow this requirement and instead dismiss evidence of severe impairments in wrongly denying a disability claim.

SSA Failed to Consider Limits of Teenage Heart Transplant Patient

Consider a recent example from here in Illinois. The applicant is a woman who has dealt with serious health problems since childhood. She required a heart transplant at the age of 12. Afterwards, she required ongoing treatment for a number of other ailments. After her 18th birthday, the applicant filed for Social Security Disability benefits, claiming her continuing medical problems left her unable to work.

The Social Security Administration's administrative law judge (ALJ) said none of the applicant's ailments justified a finding of disability. Among other things, the ALJ dismissed evidence regarding the applicant's limitations with respect to use of her right hand. Several medical experts testified the applicant had a muscular contraction disorder known as dystonia, which causes her “fine movements to be unpredictable or impaired.” While the ALJ acknowledged the applicant's dystonia, he deemed it was not severe “either individually or in combination” with her other medical problems.

On appeal, a federal magistrate found the ALJ's reasoning insufficient. Indeed, the ALJ failed to address the applicant's “right-hand dexterity at all, either as a singular impairment or with respect to how it impacts her in combination with her other impairments.” This was a critical oversight, the magistrate explained, because the ALJ found the applicant was capable of performing certain types of manual labor, such as a table worker or sorter, jobs which require “frequent fingering.” The Social Security Administration therefore needed to reconsider the applicant's claims, this time assessing the cumulative impact of her medical conditions on her ability to work.

Need Help With a Disability Claim?

It is important to emphasize Social Security is not required to award disability benefits based on any single ailment or medical condition. As the case above illustrates, it is the responsibility of Social Security to determine whether an applicant's total medical condition renders them incapable of holding gainful employment. The magistrate criticized the ALJ for, on the one hand, noting the applicant's dexterity limitations, while on the other hand, failing to properly assess how that would affect her actual ability to work.

This is why it is always important to hold Social Security officials accountable for their decisions. A disabled applicant should never be denied benefits because the government failed to do its job. An experienced Chicago Social Security Disability attorney can work with you to ensure your claim is heard, and if necessary to appeal to a higher court. Contact the offices of Pearson Disability Law, LLC, if you need to speak with someone right away.



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