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Federal appeals court makes important disability determination

A woman seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration was recently forced to appeal her case to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Her efforts paid off, in part, as her claim has been remanded back to the SSA.

The woman is specifically seeking assistance under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. Her application cited a combination of disabilities that prevented her from working, including degenerative disc disease, obesity and asthma. However, the administrative law judge denied her request, concluding that she had failed to sufficiently demonstrate her inability to work.

The ALJ is guided by a federal regulation that articulates five sequential steps for evaluating an SSDI claim. The fourth step concerns the applicant's residual functional capacity, which determines whether she might be able to adjust to jobs in the same field as previously held positions.

In this case, the applicant had submitted medical evidence comprising diagnostic reports from several physicians, as well as her treatment records. Notably, the applicant had records where she described her pain as severe to her own doctors. However, the diagnostic reports offered conflicting assessments. One recommended the woman should perform no more than four hours of customer service management work per day, whereas two other doctors diagnosed her as only mildly impaired after conducting some imaging tests.

After exhausting the SSA's administrative process, an SSDI applicant has the right to appeal in federal court. The woman utilized this right, but the U.S. District Court upheld the ALJ's decision. Fortunately, the Court of Appeals disagreed, determining that more weight should be accorded the woman's subjective accounts of her pain.

Our law firm has helped hundreds of SSDI applicants evaluate the type of evidence they need to submit a strong claim and we litigate for our clients in federal court when necessary.  We have several cases in federal court at any given time and practically all are decided favorably.  We understand the limitations of modern medicine in quantifying an individual's level of pain. We also have tips to help an individual strengthen an SSDI application and advice how to work with doctors when gathering evidence. Call our toll free number at 1-866-886-0660 for a free consultation about your disability benefits claim.

Source: State Bar of Wisconsin, "Seventh Circuit Revives Disability Benefits Claim, Judge Erred on Credibility," Joe Forward, Oct. 3 2016

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