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Why Your Lifting Ability Matters When Applying for Disability Benefits

Posted on in Social Security Disability Medical Conditions

IL SSI lawyerIn order to receive Social Security disability benefits, you must be completely unable to work. Even if you are incapable of returning to your previous job, Social Security will also look at whether you can perform different types of work, including “sedentary” work. Among other things, sedentary work includes jobs that do not require a person to lift more than 10 pounds at once during the workday.

Illinois Magistrate: Social Security Failed to Give “Controlling Weight” to Disability Applicant's Doctor

So if your treating physician determines you cannot lift more than 10 pounds, that should weigh in favor of granting your application for disability benefits. Of course, Social Security does not always make things that easy. Take this recent decision from an Illinois federal magistrate judge, Lucy S. v. Saul. In this case, a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) disregarded the findings of an applicant's treating physician with respect to her ability to lift. The magistrate took exception to the ALJ's decision and returned the case to Social Security for a new hearing.

The plaintiff in this case was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a teenager. She was nevertheless able to work as an MRI technologist for approximately 14 years. While moving a patient one day in 2015, the plaintiff said her “back gave out with a pop,” and she has been unable to work ever since.

The plaintiff's treating physician, an orthopedic specialist, determined the plaintiff “could not perform any job that required lifting of more than five pounds.” This meant the plaintiff could not even perform sedentary work as defined by Social Security regulations. The ALJ, however, gave this expert opinion “little weight” and decided the plaintiff could somehow still perform sedentary work.

The magistrate said the ALJ applied the law incorrectly. Normally, a treating physician's opinions regarding a disability applicant's lifting restrictions are entitled to “controlling weight” as long it is “not inconsistent” with the other available evidence. In this case, the magistrate said the orthopedic specialist's 5-pound lifting restriction was in fact “well-supported by medically acceptable techniques.” At best, the ALJ “merely hinted at inconsistency” with other evidence in the record. But these purported inconsistencies did not actually contradict the orthopedist's diagnosis.

That said, the magistrate did not find the plaintiff was disabled or entitled to Social Security benefits. The magistrate's order simply requires the ALJ to reconsider their earlier decision–after giving proper “controlling weight” to the treating physician's opinions. The ALJ must also follow a “checklist” of certain factors in assessing a treating physician's views, which was not done during the initial hearing.

Speak with a Cook County Disability Benefits Attorney Today

A person's ability to lift 5 pounds versus 10 pounds not might seem significant. But small details like these are often critical when it comes to assessing a disability case. That is why it is important to work with an experienced Chicago Social Security disability lawyer who understands the regulations governing these cases and will represent your interests before an ALJ. If you need legal advice, contact Pearson Disability Law, LLC, at 312-999-0999 today to schedule a free consultation.

 

Source:

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=5143217129603921583arch 27, 2020

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