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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 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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Chicago Social Security benefits attorneySupplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program administered by the Social Security Administration that is intended to assist disabled individuals with little or no income. SSI is not the same thing as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is, as the name implies, an insurance program into which workers pay. In contrast, SSI is a welfare program funded by general tax revenues. SSI is similar to SSDI, however, in that both programs require Social Security to assess whether an applicant is “disabled” and therefore unable to work.

Applicant Suffering From Fibromyalgia Entitled to New SSI Hearing

SSI applicants often face hostility from Social Security officials who choose to ignore medical evidence of disability in order to justify denying benefits. Recently the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ordered Social Security to reconsider one SSI applicant’s claim for benefits after an administrative law judge simply disregarded medical evidence. This particular SSI case has been pending for more than five years, and this appears to be at least the third time that Social Security will have to review the matter.

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