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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 attorneyEven if you are unable to return to your previous job due to a medical condition, Social Security will not award you disability benefits unless it is satisfied that you are incapable of performing any type of meaningful work. The opinions of your treating physician are often critical towards proving this is the case. Of course, some Social Security administrative law judges may try to “play doctor” and attempt to disregard (or misrepresent) the views of your actual physicians.

Take this recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois, T.D.B. v. Saul. The plaintiff in this case previously worked as a registered nurse. In 2007, she suffered a serious wrist injury when she was attacked by a patient. The plaintiff's physician subsequently diagnosed her with chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS). By 2010, the physician concluded the plaintiff had “reached maximum medical improvement,” which is a legal term used in connection with workers' compensation proceedings. At the time, this meant the plaintiff would be limited to “full-time sedentary work.”

In 2012, however, the treating physician revised this diagnosis. In a separate letter to the workers' compensation insurance adjuster assigned to the plaintiff's claim, the doctor said the plaintiff was “essentially unemployable,” i.e., she was no longer medically capable of returning to work in any capacity on a full-time basis.

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IL disability attorneyIt is not uncommon for Social Security officials to initially deny your claim for disability benefits. Fortunately, you have certain appeal rights. In fact, there are four levels to the disability appeals process. First, you can ask for reconsideration. Second, you may request a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Third, you can seek review of the ALJ's decision with Social Security's Appeals Council. Finally, you can seek judicial review of a “final” decision to deny benefits in federal court.

Illinois Magistrate Dismisses Social Security Appeal Filed One Day Late

At each stage of the appeals process, there are strict deadlines that you are expected to understand and comply with. If you file an appeal even one day late, a court may refuse to hear your case, regardless of the underlying merits. So it is critical that you act promptly to address a negative decision from Social Security.

For example, in a February 2020 case, McGhee v. Commissioner of Social Security, an Illinois federal magistrate judge granted the government's motion to dismiss an appeal brought by an unsuccessful disability applicant. The applicant previously went through the first three stages of the appeals process described above. In November 2017, an ALJ rejected the applicant's claim. The applicant then sought review from the Appeals Council.

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