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Social Security Continues to Fall Short When Considering CPP Limitations

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

IL disability attorneyWe have seen a number of Social Security disability cases here in Illinois recently where the government has failed to properly account for an applicant's limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace (CPP). As defined by Social Security's own regulations, CPP refers to a person's “ability to sustain focused attention sufficiently long to permit the timely completion of tasks commonly found in work settings.” If an applicant's mental health impairments limit their CPP to the point where they cannot reasonably function in any work setting, they are generally entitled to receive disability benefits.

Appeals Court: ALJ Improperly Ignored Answer to Hypothetical Question

In the most recent decision from the Chicago-based U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to address CPP limitations, Crump v. Saul, Social Security was once again faulted for its inadequate approach to this subject.

As described by the Court, the plaintiff in this case “has a long history of mental health impairments,” notably bipolar disorder. During a hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the plaintiff “testified that she has 'too many thoughts at one time' and 'can't focus' on what she is supposed to be doing.” Despite acknowledging the plaintiff had “moderate” CPP limitations, however, the ALJ determined she did not meet the legal standard for disabled.

The Seventh Circuit noted that during the hearing, the ALJ posed two hypothetical questions to a vocational expert (VE). The first question asked whether someone could find work if they were limited to performing “simple, routine, repetitive” tasks in a job where there were “few workplace changes.” The VE answered yes to this question.

The second hypothetical question asked the VE to account for CPP limitations, i.e., could someone find work if they “would either be off-task 20% of the time or need two unscheduled absences per month. The ALJ answered no to this question.

The ALJ ultimately accepted the first answer and ignored the second answer. In other words, although the ALJ acknowledged the plaintiff had significant CPP limitations–as demonstrated by the second question–the final decision to deny disability benefits was rooted solely in the answer to the first question, which did not account for any CPP limitations. The Seventh Circuit said this was unacceptable and required holding a new hearing.

The appeals court further criticized the ALJ for giving "short shrift” to the expert medical opinions of the plaintiff's treating psychiatrist. In and of itself, this would not justify a new hearing. But combined with the ALJ's disregard for the answer to the second hypothetical question, the Seventh Circuit that added up to an improper assessment of the plaintiff's “residual functional capacity” to work.

Speak with an Illinois Disability Lawyer Today

You cannot always rely on Social Security officials to apply the law correctly to your disability application. That is why it is essential to work with an experienced Chicago Social Security disability benefits attorney when making your case. Contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free no-obligation consultation with a lawyer who can provide you with guidance in this area.




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