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How Inconsistent Statements Can Doom Your Disability Case

Posted by on in Social Security Disability

disability case, Chicago disability benefits lawyer, disability hearing, denied Social Security benefits,  Social Security Disability InsuranceIf you are applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, it is critical that you do not attempt to mislead the agency officials reviewing your case. Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) are eager to seize any statements that may undermine your credibility and thus provide a basis for denying benefits. Even a seemingly unimportant inconsistency in your testimony can prove fatal to your claim.

Federal Court Denies Applicant New Hearing

A recent decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago offers a cautionary tale. The applicant in this case sought disability benefits in 2012, shortly after she lost her job as an assembly line worker. She claimed to have a number of medically documented impairments, including depression, obesity, and sleep apnea.

The ALJ assigned to the case ultimately decided the applicant was not eligible for disability despite her impairments. Among other reasons, the ALJ said the applicant “was not entirely credible” due to several “inconsistent” statements she made while answering questions during her disability hearing. For example, the ALJ said the applicant testified she suffered from “dizziness, headaches, and blackouts,” yet in her medical records, she never reported having such symptoms.

Additionally, the applicant was inconsistent in her answers to several question regarding when she quit drinking and smoking, whether she ever used illegal drugs, the reason she was fired from her last job, and whether she continued to work after the purported onset of her disability.

The applicant appealed the ALJ's decision through several layers of review, all the way up to the Seventh Circuit. Unfortunately, the appellate court saw no reason to disturb the ALJ's findings. The appeals court said there was “substantial evidence” supporting the ALJ's decision. Indeed, when it comes to reviewing an ALJ's findings regarding a disability applicant's credibility, the Seventh Circuit said it can only reverse such determinations when they are “patently wrong.” That was not the case here.

The applicant argued before the Seventh Circuit that the ALJ should have discussed her prior work history as part of any credibility evaluation. But the Court noted the law does not require such consideration. And while a “consistent work history weighs in favor of a positive credibility finding,” it is not enough to tip the scales in favor of an applicant who otherwise makes inconsistent statements.

Need Help Getting Your Story Straight for Social Security?

It is easy to make inconsistent or seemingly contradictory statements during a disability hearing. It often takes years for Social Security to hear a case, and even the best memories fade with time. This is why you need to work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer who can make sure you present the best case possible to Social Security. If you are applying for benefits and need help, Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, today.


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