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IL disability lawyerThere are multiple levels to the process of reviewing an application for Social Security disability benefits. An administrative law judge (ALJ) employed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) normally conducts a hearing and issues a decision to grant or deny benefits. If the ALJ denies benefits, the applicant can then file an internal appeal with SSA, and if that fails, file a lawsuit against the agency in federal court.

But even if a federal judge agrees with the applicant that the ALJ's decision was incorrect, the court will typically not award disability benefits directly. Instead, the court will remand–return–the case to Social Security for a new ALJ hearing, effectively restarting the entire process. However, in rare cases, a court may decide this is unnecessary and simply order Social Security to start paying disability benefits.

Seventh Circuit: Applicant's Age, Limited Education, and Prior Work Experience Justify Award of Benefits Without a Third Hearing

We recently saw an example of this from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago. The plaintiff in this case, Marin v. Saul, has been unable to work for over a decade due to her physical and mental impairments. In 2012, an ALJ held a hearing and determined that despite the plaintiff's impairments, she could still “work in a sedentary job requiring little social interaction,” and denied her application for benefits. The plaintiff then went through the appeals process, and a federal district court ended up remanding the case back to Social Security for a new hearing.

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IL disability lawyerAs we have discussed many times before, it often takes many years for a disability applicant to receive a final decision from Social Security. And in many of those cases, there may be several years of additional appeals following a denial of disability benefits. During this lengthy period, many disability applicants, unfortunately, pass away. Under the law, the applicant's spouse, children, or other beneficiaries may continue to pursue the disability claim.

Magistrate Rules Social Security Failed to Properly Justify Decision Denying Now-Deceased Woman Disability Benefits

Just recently, a federal judge here in Illinois ruled in favor of a widower who sought to reverse a Social Security decision denying his late wife's claim for disability benefits. The deceased injured her back in 2012 while working at a retail store. The injury was severe enough that she required surgery. But even then, she continued to suffer from chronic leg and back pain. This eventually led to her filing an application for disability benefits in 2014.

Following a 2016 hearing, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) determined the deceased was not legally disabled. Despite her impairments, the ALJ said she could still perform “light work with certain restrictions.” The applicant died in 2017, so her husband appealed the ALJ's decision on her behalf.

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