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IL disability lawyerSocial Security often tries to justify a denial of disability benefits based on an applicant's purported ability to still perform basic household tasks. For example, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) may reason that since an applicant can still cook for themselves or clean their house despite having a crippling back injury, they must still be capable of working full-time.

Illinois judges have long cautioned Social Security against over-reliance on such “daily living” tasks to disprove disability claims. But there is also the problem of Social Security ignoring evidence regarding an applicant's inability to perform household activities to help prove their claims.

ALJ Failed to Consider Applicant's Difficulties with Daily Living

A recent decision from a federal judge here in Illinois offers a useful example of the latter problem. The plaintiff in this case first applied for disability benefits in 2014, alleging a number of mental impairments, including major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. After a hearing, a Social Security ALJ rejected the plaintiff's application, holding she could still perform certain jobs despite her limitations.

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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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Chicago disability benefits lawyer, Social Security Disability Insurance, mental impairments, disability case, disability claimsWhen applying for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, the agency will need to assess your ability to perform any type of meaningful work in spite of your physical and mental impairments. In a typical disability case, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) will pose hypothetical questions to a “vocational expert,” basically asking him or her to determine how someone with your medical history might be able to function in the job market.

While the questions may be hypothetical, they must still be grounded in your actual medical records. For example, if you suffer from diabetes, the ALJ must include diabetes as a parameter in the hypothetical question posed to the vocational expert. If the ALJ omits any of your demonstrated limitations, that may be grounds for seeking a new hearing should Social Security ultimately deny your application for benefits.

Social Security Failed to Ask Right Questions of Vocational Expert

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