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IL disability attorneyIf you have suffered an injury or illness that has made it impossible for you to return to work, you may be able to receive disability benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). However, to receive these benefits, you will usually need to show that you have suffered a physical or mental impairment that has caused you to be unable to participate in “substantial gainful activity.” Your eligibility for benefits will usually be based on the testimony of a vocational expert (VE) who will offer an opinion on whether there are jobs available that fit your level of skill and the types of work you are able to perform. One tool that a VE will use when offering an opinion is the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT).

Magistrate Rules on Use of DOT in Disability Cases

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles is a multi-volume book published by the U.S. Department of Labor. It provides descriptions of most jobs that are available in the United States and information about the requirements that are needed to perform each job, including reasoning ability, physical exertion, communication skills, education, and training. Since the DOT was last updated in 1999, it is not fully up to date, but it is still used by VEs to determine what jobs a person may be able to perform and whether these jobs are available to qualified workers.

One recent case that took place in the U.S. District Court of Illinois provides a good example of how the DOT is used in Social Security Disability Cases. In the case of Brian A. B. v. Commissioner of Social Security, the plaintiff had been denied disability benefits. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that even though he had degenerative disc disease in the lumbar region and degenerative joint disease in the shoulder, he was able to do sedentary work while being limited to frequent reaching in all directions except overhead.

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Cook County disability benefits attorneySocial Security disability programs are designed to assist individuals who are unable to work due to a physical or mental impairment. Disability decisions are not supposed to be a judgment on the applicant's character or past conduct. However, Social Security officials often discount disability claims raised by individuals with criminal records or who are not considered “sympathetic” or “likable” enough.

Magistrate: Social Security Failed to Properly Assess Ex-Con's Mental Disorders

Such considerations, however, have no relevance under Social Security regulations. When an agency administrative law judge (ALJ) takes procedural shortcuts with an applicant they dislike, a federal court may intervene and decide that the applicant is entitled to a new hearing.

This is precisely what happened in one recent Illinois Social Security disability case. The plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits in 2014. (SSI follows similar rules to Social Security Disability Insurance when it comes to assessing an applicant's physical and mental impairments.) For the eight years prior to the plaintiff's application, he was serving a prison sentence.

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Chicago Social Security benefits attorneySupplemental Security Income (SSI) is a program administered by the Social Security Administration that is intended to assist disabled individuals with little or no income. SSI is not the same thing as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI is, as the name implies, an insurance program into which workers pay. In contrast, SSI is a welfare program funded by general tax revenues. SSI is similar to SSDI, however, in that both programs require Social Security to assess whether an applicant is “disabled” and therefore unable to work.

Applicant Suffering From Fibromyalgia Entitled to New SSI Hearing

SSI applicants often face hostility from Social Security officials who choose to ignore medical evidence of disability in order to justify denying benefits. Recently the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ordered Social Security to reconsider one SSI applicant’s claim for benefits after an administrative law judge simply disregarded medical evidence. This particular SSI case has been pending for more than five years, and this appears to be at least the third time that Social Security will have to review the matter.

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