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Chicago disability benefits denial attorneyInconsistency is often a major factor in Social Security denying disability claims. If the agency feels your doctor's opinions are inconsistent with the other medical evidence available, your claim can be denied. Similarly, if an administrative law judge (ALJ) feels your own testimony with respect to your symptoms–especially with respect to subjective matters like pain–is inconsistent, that may also form the basis for denying a claim.

Appeals Court Sides With Social Security Despite Problems With ALJ's Reasoning

Consider a recent decision by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals here in Chicago. The plaintiff in this case unsuccessfully applied for disability benefits. He previously worked for a chemical company, and while loading chemicals onto a truck at work one day, he “felt pain in his low back.” The pain persisted, so he eventually saw a specialist, who determined the plaintiff had a large disc herniation “that was pinching a spinal nerve root.”

Although doctors initially advised a conservative course of treatment–i.e., physical therapy–the plaintiff ultimately needed back surgery. This led him to stop working in 2007. In 2008, a physical therapist suggested the plaintiff could resume performing “light” work. However, the plaintiff did not return to work and instead applied for disability benefits in 2012.

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Illinois social security disability lawyer debtsMany Illinois residents are understandably reluctant to hire an attorney to represent them when applying for Social Security disability benefits, because they simply cannot afford to pay a lawyer–especially when they are already unable to work and have limited financial resources. This is why a qualified disability lawyer works on a contingency basis. In other words, the lawyer only accepts payment if they obtain a disability award for the client.

Federal law also requires Social Security to pay applicants’ attorney’s fees in certain cases. Specifically, the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) provides that when an applicant prevails in litigation against the Social Security Administration–and the government's position was not “substantially justified”–then a judge may order an award of attorney's fees to the successful applicant. However, an EAJA award is payable directly to the disability applicant rather than his or her attorney.

Seventh Circuit Upholds Using Attorney Fee Award to "Offset” Poor Disability Recipients' Debts

The distinction of whom the award is paid to is critical, because there are cases where the federal government can use money awarded for attorney’s fees to “offset” debts owed by the applicant for matters unrelated to their Social Security case. For example, if an applicant is behind on their student loans or child support payments, the U.S. Treasury can use a disability-related award of attorney’s fees to pay off those debts without the applicant’s consent.

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Illinois Social Security disability lawyer stroke victimOne sign that you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits is the need to use a cane in order to walk or stand for prolonged periods of time. While the use of a cane does not automatically mean you are legally disabled, it does provide strong evidence that you are unable to perform the type of activities typically associated with full-time work. At the same time, Social Security officials may attempt to minimize or discount the importance of your need to use a cane as a pretext for rejecting your disability application.

Social Security Ordered to Reconsider Stroke Victim's Case

Consider a recent disability case from here in Illinois. The plaintiff in this case was a man in his early 50s. Five years ago, he suffered a heart attack followed by a stroke. As a result, he continues to experience weakness on the left side of his body, which requires him to use a cane for walking.

The plaintiff subsequently applied for disability benefits. A Social Security administrative law judge (ALJ) rejected the plaintiff's claim, however, finding that despite his impairments, the plaintiff could still “work or stand for six hours in an eight-hour day and that he could do so without his cane.”

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