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IL disability lawyerOne of the steps in assessing an application for Social Security disability benefits is looking at what jobs, if any, a person could perform when taking into account all of their physical and mental limitations. This is normally accomplished by having the administrative law judge (ALJ) posing a “hypothetical question” to a vocational expert (VE) during a disability hearing. It is critical that the ALJ includes all of the applicant's impairments in posing this question; otherwise, the VE's answer may not accurately reflect the applicant's actual job potential.

Illinois Judge Orders Social Security to Reconsider Limits on Applicant's “Concentration, Persistence, and Pace”

Here is a recent example of an ALJ failing to ask the right question. In Kenneth L. v. Saul, the plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits from Social Security. SSI is a need-based program available to low-income individuals who meet the same disability criteria as for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. So the legal issues in this case would be equally applicable to a plaintiff seeking disability benefits.

After a hearing, an ALJ denied the plaintiff's application after determining he retained the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform “a full range of work at all exertional levels,” provided the work was limited to “simple, routine and repetitive tasks not requiring work at a production rate pace.” As is standard practice, the ALJ based this conclusion on a VE's response to a hypothetical question.

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