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Should I Represent Myself in a Social Security Disability Appeal?

Posted on in Denied Social Security Benefits

Il disability lawyerWhen Social Security denies an application for disability benefits, the applicant has the right to appeal. The appeals process often includes a number of stages, including filing a formal petition for review with a federal judge, who has the authority to order Social Security to conduct a new hearing on your application.

Judge: ALJ Used “Template” Language, Failed to Explain Reasons for Rejecting Disability Claim

Your chances on appeal are much stronger if you are represented by an experienced Social Security disability attorney. But there are cases where a disability applicant has represented themselves and still managed to prevail on appeal. In fact, it happened just recently to a woman from right here in Illinois.

The plaintiff in this case first applied for disability benefits six years ago, citing her inability to work due to diabetes and blindness in one eye. A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) held a hearing on the plaintiff's application in 2016. After hearing the plaintiff's testimony and other evidence, however, the ALJ denied the application for benefits.

The ALJ essentially concluded the plaintiff could still perform “restricted sedentary work” despite her medical condition. This type of work restriction included her previous job as a desktop publisher. The plaintiff disagreed with the ALJ's reasoning and, acting without the assistance of an attorney, appealed Social Security's denial to federal court.

The judge assigned to the case noted that the plaintiff did not “explicitly point to any mistakes that she thinks the ALJ made” in her court filings. But the court nevertheless interpreted the plaintiff's argument as a challenge to the ALJ's finding that the plaintiff could still perform restricted sedentary work.

And with respect to that finding, the judge pointed out the ALJ relied largely on “template language” that failed to specifically address the medical limitations alleged by the plaintiff. The judge said the law required the ALJ to “address these allegations more fully, even if she ultimately concluded that they were contradicted by other evidence.” For instance, the ALJ needed to show what “objective medical findings” were “inconsistent” with the plaintiff's claim she could not work.

Speak with a Cook County Social Security Attorney Today

Although this particular plaintiff obtained a favorable ruling from the judge, that should not be taken to mean it is a good idea to represent yourself in a disability appeal. The judge noted the plaintiff failed to follow many of the rules normally associated with disability cases. And the court decided to extend exceptional lenience to the plaintiff. Not every judge is so forgiving.

More to the point, there is no financial reason not to work with an experienced Chicago disability benefits lawyer. At Pearson Disability Law, LLC, we do not collect any legal fees unless we recover disability benefits for you. We work exclusively on a contingency basis, so there is no financial risk to you. We also offer a free consultation to new clients who are looking to learn more about the rights when dealing with Social Security. Call us today at 312-999-0999 to schedule an appointment.




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