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Is a Hernia Considered a Disability by Social Security?

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

IL disability lawyerA hernia is not the type of impairment that, by itself, qualifies a person for Social Security disability benefits. Indeed, most hernias can be surgically repaired to relieve a person's symptoms. But when surgery is insufficient and the resulting pain and limitations prevent a person from working, then Social Security needs to consider the possibility that person is legally disabled.

Federal Court Rejects Social Security's Attempt to Ignore Treating Physician's Views of Disability Applicant's Condition

As is too often the case, however, Social Security may try and discount the expert opinions of doctors who actually treated an applicant's hernia in an attempt to find the applicant not disabled. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago recently addressed such a case, finding Social Security's decision to reject a disability application was not supported by the evidence.

The plaintiff in this case, Burgos v. Saul, was previously employed as a warehouse worker. Fourteen years ago, the plaintiff underwent the first in a series of surgeries intended to treat his multiple hernias as well as a kidney ailment. Despite these surgeries, the plaintiff's hernias led to increased abdominal pain. Eventually, the plaintiff found himself unable to work and applied for disability benefits in 2014.

At a hearing on his disability application, the plaintiff presented a statement from his treating physician, who explained that due to the plaintiff's present condition he could “lift no more than five pounds, stand or walk no more than one hour in an eight-hour workday, and sit no more than two hours during a standard workday.” Additionally, the physician said the plaintiff would “needed to elevate his legs for 30 minutes every two hours throughout the day.” This would effectively prevent him from working at any job.

A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) assigned “little weight” to the physician's opinions and denied the plaintiff's application. In the ALJ's view, the physician only had a “limited treating relationship” with the plaintiff and failed to provide “objective evidence” for his opinions. The ALJ decided the plaintiff's physical limitations were not as great as the doctor explained, and that the plaintiff could still perform “light work.”

The Seventh Circuit said the ALJ erred in failing to properly consider the treating physician's expert opinions. For disability claims filed before March 2017–when Social Security altered its rules on this point–the ALJ was required to give the treating physician's views “controlling weight” so long as it was supported by medical findings and did not contradict the other evidence in the record. Neither of these exceptions applied in this case, the appeals court said.

Notably, the Seventh Circuit said that contrary to the ALJ's conclusions, the treating physician had treated the plaintiff “for more than six years and performed multiple surgeries” on him. This was not a “limited treating relationship,” as the ALJ insisted. More to the point, the doctor's treatment notes “extensively” documented the plaintiff's medical condition and his functional limitations. The ALJ simply chose to ignore this evidence without providing a good reason. The appeals court, therefore, ordered Social Security to conduct a new hearing on the plaintiff's disability claim.

Speak with an Illinois Social Security Disability Attorney Today

Perhaps the only thing worse than being unable to work is having to fight Social Security to prove that is the case. An experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer can help you in presenting your case to Social Security and, if necessary, appealing a rejection. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a free consultation with a disability attorney today.




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