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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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In many cases, the Social Security disability benefits a person can receive are based on their work history and the income they have earned in the past. However, there are some cases where children may receive disability benefits, and they may be eligible to continue receiving disability after reaching the age of 18, depending on whether their disabilities affect their ability to work.

Magistrate Reverses ALJ’s Denial of Disabled Adult Child Benefits

A recent U.S. District Court case in Illinois illustrates some of the issues that may be involved in cases involving Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits. In Alexandra A. S. v. Commissioner of Social Security, a woman had applied for benefits, and she alleged that symptoms she had experienced since her 18th birthday, including depression, bipolar disorder, social anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and lack of focus, made it impossible for her to work.

The administrative law judge (ALJ) who heard the plaintiff’s case found that while she had severe impairments due to personality disorders, anxiety, and substance abuse, she had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform simple, routine tasks in a work environment that is not fast-paced, does not involve any interactions with the public, and has only brief, superficial contact with co-workers. For these reasons, the ALJ denied the plaintiff disability benefits. The plaintiff appealed this decision.

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IL disability attorneyWhen a person makes a Social Security disability claim, the decision about whether to award benefits will usually depend on the medical examinations they receive, as well as evaluations that are meant to determine whether they have the ability to work. In these cases, the opinions of a person’s regular doctor, who is known as a “treating source physician,” are given a great deal of weight. This is because a treating physician will have established a relationship with the patient that gives them a better understanding of their physical condition and their capabilities to perform work. However, in some cases, disability claims are improperly denied because Social Security does not properly consider the opinions of a treating source physician.

Appeals Court Vacates Denial of Benefits Based on Failure to Give Weight to Treating Physician’s Opinion

One recent case in Illinois demonstrates how Social Security may deny benefits without properly considering the opinions of a treating source physician. In Hargett v. Commissioner of Social Security, the United States Court of Appeals considered a situation in which an applicant had been denied benefits by an administrative law judge (ALJ), and this decision was upheld by a federal magistrate judge.

The plaintiff applied for disability benefits based on a number of impairments, including type 2 diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, curvature of the spine, and high blood pressure. He had been receiving treatment from his primary care physician, who referred him to a physical therapist for a functional capacity evaluation (FCE). This evaluation found that while he had the lifting capacity to perform “medium-strength” work, he was unable to stand for more than five minutes, could not walk for more than a tenth of a mile, could not balance well while walking or standing, and could not crouch or stoop. The primary care physician signed off on the results of this evaluation.

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