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IL disability lawyerA hernia is not the type of impairment that, by itself, qualifies a person for Social Security disability benefits. Indeed, most hernias can be surgically repaired to relieve a person's symptoms. But when surgery is insufficient and the resulting pain and limitations prevent a person from working, then Social Security needs to consider the possibility that person is legally disabled.

Federal Court Rejects Social Security's Attempt to Ignore Treating Physician's Views of Disability Applicant's Condition

As is too often the case, however, Social Security may try and discount the expert opinions of doctors who actually treated an applicant's hernia in an attempt to find the applicant not disabled. The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago recently addressed such a case, finding Social Security's decision to reject a disability application was not supported by the evidence.

The plaintiff in this case, Burgos v. Saul, was previously employed as a warehouse worker. Fourteen years ago, the plaintiff underwent the first in a series of surgeries intended to treat his multiple hernias as well as a kidney ailment. Despite these surgeries, the plaintiff's hernias led to increased abdominal pain. Eventually, the plaintiff found himself unable to work and applied for disability benefits in 2014.

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IL disability lawyerThe general rule in Social Security disability cases is that agency officials should give “controlling weight” to the medical conclusions of an applicant's treating physicians unless those opinions are not supported by the other evidence presented. If a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) decides to give a treating physician's views less-than-controlling weight, it is the ALJ's responsibility to explain their reasons. In fact, there is a required checklist of factors the ALJ is required to follow in such cases.

Magistrate Orders New Hearing After ALJ Fails to Follow “Checklist”

But this does not mean the ALJ actually follows the checklist. A recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois, Kenneth P. v. Saul, offers a useful illustration. In this case, the plaintiff suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) and applied for disability benefits five years ago. A Social Security ALJ denied the plaintiff's application after only giving “some weight” to the medical opinions offered by the plaintiff's treating neurologist.

As the magistrate explained, the neurologist concluded that the plaintiff's “fatigue and balance issues” related to his MS made him unable “to sustain a regular 40-hour work schedule.” The plaintiff also suffered from mental limitations that prevented him from “adequately” performing any type of desk job that required “memory and attention.”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_obesity.jpgObesity does not simply mean a person is a few pounds over their ideal weight. Rather, it is defined as a “complex disease involving an excessive amount of body fat.” In some cases, a person's obesity may be severe enough to qualify them for Social Security disability benefits.

Now, it is important to understand that obesity, in and of itself, is no longer considered a standalone disability by Social Security. That is to say, Social Security will not assume you are unable to work because you suffer from obesity. But Social Security must take obesity into consideration when determining any limitations on your ability to work.

Magistrate: Social Security Acknowledged, But Did Not Discuss, Impact of Disability Applicant's Obesity

A recent decision from a federal magistrate judge here in Illinois illustrates the role obesity should play in a disability application. The plaintiff, in this case, applied for disability benefits, stating he has been unable to work since 2009 due to a variety of impairments, including a back injury, arthritis, and diabetes.

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