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IL disability attorneyIf you have suffered an injury or illness that has made it impossible for you to return to work, you may be able to receive disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, to receive these benefits, you will usually need to show that you have suffered a physical or mental impairment that has caused you to be unable to participate in “substantial gainful activity.” Your eligibility for benefits will usually be based on the testimony of a vocational expert (VE) who will offer an opinion on whether there are jobs available that fit your level of skill and the types of work you are able to perform. One tool that a VE will use when offering an opinion is the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).

Magistrate Rules on Use of DOT in Disability Cases

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles is a multi-volume book published by the U.S. Department of Labor. It provides descriptions of most jobs that are available in the United States and information about the requirements that are needed to perform each job, including reasoning ability, physical exertion, communication skills, education, and training. Since the DOT was last updated in 1999, it is not fully up to date, but it is still used by VEs to determine what jobs a person may be able to perform and whether these jobs are available to qualified workers.

One recent case that took place in the U.S. District Court of Illinois provides a good example of how the DOT is used in Social Security Disability Cases. In the case of Brian A. B. v. Commissioner of Social Security, the plaintiff had been denied disability benefits. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that even though he had degenerative disc disease in the lumbar region and degenerative joint disease in the shoulder, he was able to do sedentary work while being limited to frequent reaching in all directions except overhead.

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IL disability lawyerIf you are suffering from medical conditions that make it difficult or impossible to work, you may struggle to meet your needs. Fortunately, you can apply for Social Security disability benefits, which will provide you with financial support while you are unable to work. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) often denies benefits to applicants, leaving them unsure about their ability to support themselves. If your disability claim has been denied, you can appeal this decision, and your appeal may be based on a variety of factors, including the fact that more recent medical evidence shows that you are disabled.

Magistrate Reverses Disability Denial Based on Outdated MRI Tests

One recent Illinois case demonstrates the legal issues that can arise when Social Security bases a denial of benefits on test results that may no longer be relevant. In the case of Dennis E. C., Jr. v. Commissioner of Social Security, an administrative law judge (ALJ) had denied benefits to the plaintiff based on the opinion that he had the ability to perform work in jobs available in the economy.

The plaintiff, a 39-year-old man, had previously worked as a janitor, a warehouse freight handler, and other temporary labor positions, but he reported being unable to work because of severe back pain that made it difficult to stand or sit for extended periods. He also reported difficulty kneeling, squatting, bending, reaching, climbing stairs, and performing other work-related tasks.

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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.”

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