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What Physical Limitations Does Social Security Have to Consider in a Disability Case?

Posted on in Social Security Disability

disability benefits, Chicago Social Security disability attorney, disability case, physical limitations, disability benefits claimWhen considering your application for disability benefits, Social Security officials must assess your functional physical limitations in the workplace. Among other things, this means determining your ability to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, push, and pull over the course of a typical 8-hour workday. This forms part of a larger residual functional capacity (RFC) analysis that determines if you are no longer able to work in any meaningful capacity.

Social Security Failed to Explain “One Hour” Findings

Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) are tasked with reviewing your medical records and other evidence to ascertain your physical limitations. The ALJ is not a doctor, however, and must “build a logical bridge” between the evidence presented and his or her ultimate conclusions. In other words, the ALJ is not permitted to guess or speculate as to your limitations without citing some support in the record.

Consider a recent disability case in Illinois where the ALJ failed to do that. The plaintiff in this case applied for disability benefits five years ago, citing a history of back and spinal problems. The ALJ assigned to the case denied the application, however, in large part relying on an RFC assessment of the plaintiff's physical limitations.

Specifically, the ALJ determined the plaintiff “had no limits in sitting, standing, or walking during an 8-hour workday,” yet at the same time he could not remain in any one position for one hour at a time and would “need to assume a different position for five minutes before resuming the initial position.”

On appeal, a federal magistrate agreed with the plaintiff that the ALJ failed to explain “what support he relied on or how he arrived at the calculations for” these positional limitations. During a hearing before the ALJ, the plaintiff himself testified that he could not sit or walk for more than 15 minutes at a time, or stand for more than 20 minutes, without experiencing significant pain.

In rejecting this testimony, the magistrate said the ALJ “provided no evidence or medical opinion” to the contrary. In addition, the ALJ made similar determinations about the plaintiff's “neck range of motion” without providing any apparent evidentiary basis. Given these errors, the magistrate said the plaintiff was entitled to a new Social Security hearing.

Need Help From a Chicago Disability Benefits Lawyer?

Unfortunately, this is a problem we all too commonly see in Illinois. Social Security officials simply fail to give proper explanations for their decisions denying disability benefits. This is not simply a frustrating inconvenience for the rejected applicant—it is a clear violation of established Social Security regulations.

If an agency official is giving you vague or elusive reasons for denying your benefits claim, you need to speak with an experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney as soon as possible. Call Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 to schedule a consultation today.


Hickey v. Berryhill , U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Nov. 2, 2017.

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