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IL disability lawyerThere are a wide variety of different types of disabilities that can affect a person’s ability to work. However, this does not mean that a person will automatically qualify for Social Security disability benefits. To make the case that you are disabled, you will need to meet certain requirements, including receiving evaluations from medical experts, and you will need to specify how a physical or mental condition has affected your ability to work. One type of disability that is not always fully understood is the inability to concentrate on your work and complete the tasks involved in a regular workday.

Illinois Court Reverses Decision Based on Improper Consideration of a Vocational Expert’s Testimony

An administrative law judge (ALJ) may choose to deny a disability claim because they believe that an applicant should be able to find employment that fits any restrictions or requirements that may apply to a person’s condition, including issues with “concentration, persistence, and pace.” However, an ALJ must properly consider the evidence in a case, including testimony from a vocational expert (VE). One recent case that was heard in the U.S. District Court of Illinois demonstrated how a denial may be based on a faulty consideration of a VE’s testimony.

In this case, Timothy S. C. v Commissioner of Social Security, the plaintiff, a 50-year-old man, was found to have a number of severe impairments, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, kidney disease, depression, and anxiety. He had previously worked in construction and as a food prepper and dishwasher, but he stated that he could no longer work due to blood pressure, fatigue, depression, sleep issues, and other health concerns. Lack of concentration was a key factor in his ability to continue working.

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IL disability attorneyWhen you make a Social Security disability claim, multiple different types of medical evidence will be considered to determine whether you qualify to receive benefits. An administrative law judge (ALJ) will consider a number of factors, including whether you have an impairment that is equal or similar to specific impairments described in Social Security regulations and whether you are able to work in your current occupation or perform other types of work. When looking at whether the medical tests you have received support your claim, an ALJ is required to rely on the opinions of medical experts rather than forming their own opinions.

Illinois Court Reverses ALJ’s Decision to Deny Benefits

In some cases, an ALJ may base the decision to deny a disability claim on an improper interpretation of medical tests. This was demonstrated in a recent Illinois case, Paul R. C. v Commissioner of Social Security. The plaintiff, a man in his 50s who had worked as a painter and drywaller, applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on a number of medical conditions, including arthritis in the knees, torn shoulder muscles, diabetes, carpal tunnel syndrome, and injuries to the lower back. A previous disability claim had been denied because the ALJ concluded that he was capable of a “limited range of light work.”

In the claim in question in this case, the ALJ denied benefits and ruled that the plaintiff was capable of “medium work” that did not involve climbing on ladders or scaffolds, and only occasionally included kneeling, crouching, or crawling. Even though the plaintiff was unable to do the work he had done in the past, the ALJ stated that he would be able to find a job where he could work at the “medium exertional level.”

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IL disability attorneyWhen seeking Social Security disability benefits, the opinions of your treating physicians will often provide crucial evidence in support of your case. But not all treating-physician opinions are treated equally. For instance, if your doctor simply confirms your own subjective reports regarding certain symptoms–such as chronic pain–without providing any further analysis, that may be of limited value to a Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) reviewing your application.

Seventh Circuit Dismisses Appeal Brought by Illinois Woman with Fibromyalgia

A recent decision from the Chicago-based U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Apke v. Saul, helps to illustrate this point. In this case, a 37-year-old woman applied for disability benefits, citing a number of impairments, including fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a pain disorder that is notoriously difficult to diagnose using objective tests. As a result, Social Security often views disability claims based on fibromyalgia with increased skepticism.

This case proved to be no different. Although the plaintiff submitted expert reports from three of her treating physicians, the ALJ overseeing the case decided after holding a hearing to solicit the views of a third-party rheumatologist. Based on the rheumatologist's findings, the ALJ ultimately denied the plaintiff's application for disability benefits.

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