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IL disability attorneyA key part of any Social Security disability hearing occurs when an administrative law judge (ALJ) poses one or more “hypothetical questions” to a vocational expert. These questions are designed to help the ALJ determine what kind of jobs the applicant for disability benefits may still be able to perform in spite of their physical or mental impairments. The applicant has the right to cross-examine the VE regarding these hypothetical questions, as well as ask the ALJ to incorporate certain information when formulating the questions in the first place.

Seventh Circuit Rejects Disability Applicant's Appeal of Fourth Social Security Denial

But the mere fact an applicant disagrees with the ALJ's hypothetical question does not, in and of itself, mean the question was invalid. A recent decision from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago, Saunders v. Saul, offers a helpful illustration of this point.

In this case, a Wisconsin man applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2005. Over the intervening 14 years, there have been at least four separate hearings on the plaintiff's application, all of which ended with an ALJ ruling he did not qualify as legally disabled.

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Chicago disability benefits attorneySocial Security Disability insurance benefits are not necessarily permanent. Social Security may review and revoke disability benefits if it later determines that an individual is capable of working. This does not necessarily mean the individual no longer suffers from a disability, only that Social Security now has reason to believe that he or she can hold down a meaningful job in some capacity.

Court Upholds Decision to End Benefits for Illinois Man With Learning Disability

In one recent case, the Chicago-based U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Social Security’s decision to terminate the disability benefits the plaintiff—a man in his late 40s who suffers from a severe learning disability. Social Security initially determined the plaintiff was disabled and unable to work in 1993. But in 2004, the agency reviewed the man’s case and determined “his disability had ended.”

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Chicago social security disability lawyerSocial Security officials recently issued revised guidelines for assessing disability benefits claims. Previously, Social Security instructed its administrative law judges to weigh the “credibility” of a disability applicant’s statements regarding their symptoms. Far too often, this led ALJs to summarily reject disability claims because they did not want to believe—or in many cases, they did not like—the applicant.

Under the new guidelines, which took effect at the end of March, ALJs are no longer allowed to consider “credibility,” but rather must limit their inquiry to examining the “intensity and persistence” of the symptoms presented by the applicant. As a federal appeals judge recently explained, “The change in wording is meant to clarify that administrative law judges aren’t in the business of impeaching claimants’ character.” Instead, the ALJ is restricted to assessing credibility in the context of medical statements, such as an applicant’s complaints about pain.

The New Guidelines in Action

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