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IL disability lawyerThere are a wide variety of different types of disabilities that can affect a person’s ability to work. However, this does not mean that a person will automatically qualify for Social Security disability benefits. To make the case that you are disabled, you will need to meet certain requirements, including receiving evaluations from medical experts, and you will need to specify how a physical or mental condition has affected your ability to work. One type of disability that is not always fully understood is the inability to concentrate on your work and complete the tasks involved in a regular workday.

Illinois Court Reverses Decision Based on Improper Consideration of a Vocational Expert’s Testimony

An administrative law judge (ALJ) may choose to deny a disability claim because they believe that an applicant should be able to find employment that fits any restrictions or requirements that may apply to a person’s condition, including issues with “concentration, persistence, and pace.” However, an ALJ must properly consider the evidence in a case, including testimony from a vocational expert (VE). One recent case that was heard in the U.S. District Court of Illinois demonstrated how a denial may be based on a faulty consideration of a VE’s testimony.

In this case, Timothy S. C. v Commissioner of Social Security, the plaintiff, a 50-year-old man, was found to have a number of severe impairments, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, kidney disease, depression, and anxiety. He had previously worked in construction and as a food prepper and dishwasher, but he stated that he could no longer work due to blood pressure, fatigue, depression, sleep issues, and other health concerns. Lack of concentration was a key factor in his ability to continue working.

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IL disability attorneyWhen seeking Social Security disability benefits, the opinions of your treating physicians will often provide crucial evidence in support of your case. But not all treating-physician opinions are treated equally. For instance, if your doctor simply confirms your own subjective reports regarding certain symptoms–such as chronic pain–without providing any further analysis, that may be of limited value to a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewing your application.

Seventh Circuit Dismisses Appeal Brought by Illinois Woman with Fibromyalgia

A recent decision from the Chicago-based U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Apke v. Saul, helps to illustrate this point. In this case, a 37-year-old woman applied for disability benefits, citing a number of impairments, including fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a pain disorder that is notoriously difficult to diagnose using objective tests. As a result, Social Security often views disability claims based on fibromyalgia with increased skepticism.

This case proved to be no different. Although the plaintiff submitted expert reports from three of her treating physicians, the ALJ overseeing the case decided after holding a hearing to solicit the views of a third-party rheumatologist. Based on the rheumatologist's findings, the ALJ ultimately denied the plaintiff's application for disability benefits.

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IL disabilty lawyerThere is often a significant delay in hearing Social Security disability cases. One result of this delay is that new information regarding an applicant's medical condition may come to light after a doctor has already reviewed the record. When this happens, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) should take the time to obtain a proper expert assessment of this new information before making a decision.

Illinois Magistrate Orders New Hearing to Consider Applicant's MRIs and X-rays

Unfortunately, that is not always how things work in practice. Consider this recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois, Renee L. M. v. Commissioner of Social Security. The plaintiff, in this case, is a woman in her 50s who applies for disability insurance benefits four years ago. Although an ALJ determined the plaintiff did suffer from a number of severe impairments, including “fibromyalgia, back arthritis, anxiety disorder, and personality disorder,” she nevertheless had the “residual functional capacity” to perform “light work” with limitations. On that basis, the ALJ denied the claim for disability benefits.

Before the magistrate, the plaintiff argued the ALJ relied on the “outdated opinion” of a state agency medical consultant. These consultants do not personally treat the disability applicant; rather they review their medical records and offer opinions to the ALJ. The ALJ is never supposed to “play doctor” themselves, but instead assess the credibility of the consultants as well as any treating physicians.

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