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Illinois social security disability lawyer proving medical impairmentOne of the basic responsibilities of Social Security when assessing a claim for disability benefits is to consider the effects of an applicant's medical impairments on their ability to work. Even if Social Security ultimately determines the effects do not rise to the level of a legally qualifying disability, the agency must still perform a proper assessment. In other words, Social Security cannot simply ignore a documented medical impairment altogether.

SSA Failed to Consider Effects of Disability Applicant's Edema

Consider this recent decision by a federal judge here in Illinois. The Social Security Administration denied a plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Before an administrative law judge (ALJ), the plaintiff presented medical evidence documenting the following impairments: HIV, obesity, edema, and lymphedema. The latter two refer to excess swelling in the plaintiff's left leg.

In fact, the plaintiff presented an extensive treatment history related to her edema. Basically, the condition requires her to “elevate her left leg throughout the day,” according to court records. Yet during the plaintiff's Social Security hearing, the ALJ never bothered to consider the impact of edema on the plaintiff's ability to work. 

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Cook County disability benefits lawyer, disability benefits, disability claim, chronic pain, medical evidenceSocial Security administrative law judges (ALJs) frequently go to extraordinary lengths to discredit and discount the impact chronic pain has on a person's ability to work—or even simply live a normal life. Although a litany of regulations and federal court decisions reject such a draconian approach to disability cases, we continue to see applicants with legitimate claims are turned away by the arbitrary and capricious decisions of ALJs.

Illinois Magistrate Identifies Multiple Errors in Disability Decision

Consider one recent example. In this case, a female applicant suffering from a variety of impairments—hypertension, diabetes, and asthma—filed for disability benefits in 2013. In 2016, Social Security denied her application, in large part because the ALJ overseeing the case rejected the applicant's testimony regarding the effects of her chronic pain and other symptoms. The woman then sought review of Social Security's denial with an Illinois federal magistrate judge.

In August of this year, the magistrate held that the woman was entitled to a new hearing because the ALJ's decision reached conclusions that were “legally insufficient and not supported by substantial evidence.” Problems identified by the magistrate included the following:

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Social Security disability benefits, Cook County disability benefits lawyer, disability denials, traumatic brain injury, seizure disorderThere are some injuries that are so severe you would assume they automatically qualify a person for Social Security disability benefits. Unfortunately, that is not how the system works. Even in cases where an applicant has clearly sustained a medical injury that prevents him or her from working, Social Security administrative law judges (ALJs) will look for any reason they can find to declare the person not disabled.

Seventh Circuit Issues Rare Order Directly Awarding Disability Benefits

Recently, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago addressed a particularly outrageous case of “disability denial” on the part of Social Security. The plaintiff in this lawsuit fell down a flight of stairs 18 years ago and sustained a “traumatic brain injury” in the process. More than a decade later, he sought disability benefits.

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