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IL disability attorneyWhen you make a Social Security disability claim, multiple different types of medical evidence will be considered to determine whether you qualify to receive benefits. An administrative law judge (ALJ) will consider a number of factors, including whether you have an impairment that is equal or similar to specific impairments described in Social Security regulations and whether you are able to work in your current occupation or perform other types of work. When looking at whether the medical tests you have received support your claim, an ALJ is required to rely on the opinions of medical experts rather than forming their own opinions.

Illinois Court Reverses ALJ’s Decision to Deny Benefits

In some cases, an ALJ may base the decision to deny a disability claim on an improper interpretation of medical tests. This was demonstrated in a recent Illinois case, Paul R. C. v Commissioner of Social Security. The plaintiff, a man in his 50s who had worked as a painter and drywaller, applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on a number of medical conditions, including arthritis in the knees, torn shoulder muscles, diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and injuries to the lower back. A previous disability claim had been denied because the ALJ concluded that he was capable of a “limited range of light work.”

In the claim in question in this case, the ALJ denied benefits and ruled that the plaintiff was capable of “medium work” that did not involve climbing on ladders or scaffolds, and only occasionally included kneeling, crouching, or crawling. Even though the plaintiff was unable to do the work he had done in the past, the ALJ stated that he would be able to find a job where he could work at the “medium exertional level.”


disability benefits, disability applicant, Chicago Social Security disability lawyer, analysis of medical records, chronic painSocial Security often justifies denying disability benefits on the basis of expert testimony from state-agency physicians. These are doctors who do not personally treat a disability applicant. Rather, they are supposed to review all of the relevant medical records and offer an informed analysis to the administrative law judge (ALJ) conducting the disability hearing. What ALJs are not supposed to do is assess the medical evidence themselves, as they are not doctors and may not play one for purposes of a legal proceeding.

Seventh Circuit Renews Criticism of Social Security's Approach to Fibromyalgia Patients

Of course, that does not stop them from trying. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago recently ordered Social Security to conduct a new disability benefits hearing in a case where the ALJ not only played doctor, but also relied on an incomplete analysis of the applicant's medical records. To compound the problems, the applicant's principal disability in this case is fibromyalgia, a severe pain disorder that Social Security often does its best to pretend does not exist.


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