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IL disability lawyerIn assessing disability claims, Social Security looks at whether or not you have an “impairment” that is considered “severe” enough to prevent you from working. A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) is also expected to consider symptoms that, while not qualifying impairments in and of themselves, may exacerbate such an impairment. In particular, the ALJ needs to determine how your symptoms and impairments, taken as a whole, may restrict the type of work you are able to perform, if any.

Social Security Failed to Consider Leg Weakness in Assessing Illinois Woman's Disability Claim

To illustrate these principles in greater detail, here is a recent case, Ramona G. v. Saul, where the ALJ failed to properly consider an applicant's symptoms. The plaintiff, in this case, applies for disability benefits three years ago. The main issue raised in the plaintiff's application was her back impairment. In conjunction with this impairment, the plaintiff also presented medical evidence that she suffered from weakness in her right leg.

The ALJ determined that this leg weakness was not itself a “medically determinable impairment” under Social Security regulations. The ALJ went on to deny the plaintiff's application for disability benefits. In response, the plaintiff filed for judicial review with an Illinois federal magistrate judge.

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IL disability lawyerSocial Security officials often deny applications for disability benefits  because they fail to properly consider all of the available medical evidence. This includes not just evidence regarding an applicant's physical condition, but also their mental state. That is to say, Social Security may incorrectly–and illegally–discount the expert opinions of a disability applicant's treating psychiatrist.

Mischler v. Berryhill

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago recently addressed such a case. The plaintiff here is a 47-year-old woman who suffers from a number of physical and mental impairments, including depression. More than five years ago, the plaintiff applied for disability benefits.

Before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), the plaintiff presented evidence that she was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 2001. As is often the case with psychiatric disorders, the plaintiff's symptoms ebbed and flowed over time. In 2008, she required hospitalization for her depression. And starting in 2003, she began seeing a psychiatrist.

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disability benefits, Chicago Social Security attorney, mental impairments, disability cases, documented medical conditionSocial Security officials often have difficulty distinguishing a person's limited ability to perform basic household chores with the physical or mental capacity to hold down a full-time job. Indeed, Social Security administrative law judges will often cite daily activities as definitive proof that an applicant is not really disabled and therefore not entitled to benefits. Yet federal courts have repeatedly told Social Security that is not how the law works.

Attending Concerts and Dating a Man Insufficient Grounds to Reject Disability Claim

The most recent example of this came in a December 28 opinion issued by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. The Seventh Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over disability cases arising throughout Illinois. In this particular case, a woman suffering from a variety of physical and mental impairments was told by an ALJ she was not legally disabled. Social Security said the ALJ's findings were not supported by sufficient evidence and ordered the agency to conduct a new hearing.

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