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IL disability attorneySocial Security disability insurance covers both physical and mental disorders that prevent a person from working. With respect to mental or “intellectual” disorders, an IQ test is often used to help Social Security determine whether or not someone is disabled. But while a low IQ score can provide useful evidence in supporting a disability claim, it is not by itself definitive proof of such a disability.

7th Circuit: Social Security Did Not Properly Consider Disability Applicant's Limited Math Abilities

Put another way, even if a disability applicant has a low IQ score, Social Security will still deny benefits if it believes the applicant can still perform “simple, repetitive work.” More to the point, Social Security must show there is such work that the applicant could actually perform given their intellectual limitations.

In a recent decision, Williams v. Saul, a federal appeals court held Social Security failed to make such a showing. The plaintiff in this case is a 25-year-old man with an IQ of 64. At a hearing before a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ), a medical expert testified the plaintiff's “math skills were at a second-grade level.” He gave incorrect answers to basic addition and multiplication problems, and could not perform division at all.

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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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