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Illinois disability attorney

Those who suffer from physical or mental conditions that make it difficult or impossible to work will often be concerned about their ability to support themselves financially. Fortunately, Social Security disability benefits are available in many cases. However, the process of applying for Social Security disability can be complicated, and disability claims are often denied for a variety of reasons. While it is possible to appeal the decision to deny disability benefits, it is important to understand the procedures followed when doing so and the types of evidence that may be considered in an appeal.

Appeals Court Upholds Decision to Deny Benefits and Refuses to Reweigh Evidence

If a disability claim is denied, an applicant will usually need to file a request for reconsideration, and if benefits are once again denied, they may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Both sides will present evidence at this hearing, and the ALJ will follow specific procedures to determine whether the applicant is disabled and whether they should be able to find work that fits within their physical or mental limitations. If an ALJ rules that a person is not disabled, the applicant can appeal this decision. However, an appeal must be based on the claim that the ALJ committed errors, and an applicant cannot introduce new evidence or ask the appeals court to reconsider or reinterpret previous evidence.

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IL disability attorneyWhen seeking Social Security disability benefits, the opinions of your treating physicians will often provide crucial evidence in support of your case. But not all treating-physician opinions are treated equally. For instance, if your doctor simply confirms your own subjective reports regarding certain symptoms–such as chronic pain–without providing any further analysis, that may be of limited value to a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewing your application.

Seventh Circuit Dismisses Appeal Brought by Illinois Woman with Fibromyalgia

A recent decision from the Chicago-based U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Apke v. Saul, helps to illustrate this point. In this case, a 37-year-old woman applied for disability benefits, citing a number of impairments, including fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a pain disorder that is notoriously difficult to diagnose using objective tests. As a result, Social Security often views disability claims based on fibromyalgia with increased skepticism.

This case proved to be no different. Although the plaintiff submitted expert reports from three of her treating physicians, the ALJ overseeing the case decided after holding a hearing to solicit the views of a third-party rheumatologist. Based on the rheumatologist's findings, the ALJ ultimately denied the plaintiff's application for disability benefits.

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IL disability lawyerIn a Social Security disability case, your own testimony regarding your symptoms will not be enough to secure an award of benefits. Your “subjective complaints,” as they are called in these cases, must be supported by medical evidence, such as a diagnosis from your treating physician. Absent such evidence, Social Security will deny your application.

Court Finds No Medical Evidence Disability Applicant Is Allergic to Electricity

A recent decision from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago, Atkins v. Saul, helps to illustrate the critical role that medical evidence plays in disability cases. The plaintiff in this case is an Indiana man who claimed he was disabled based on his “hypersensitivity to chemicals and electromagnetic fields.”

The plaintiff's family doctor conducted an examination. The doctor determined that while the plaintiff had a “very odd, flat affect”–i.e., diminished emotional expression–his results were otherwise normal. Later, this same doctor diagnosed the plaintiff with “acne and allergic rhinitis,” for which he prescribed medication. But the doctor explained that, contrary to the beliefs of the plaintiff and his family, he was not allergic to electricity and “all” chemicals.

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