The appeals process is often the most frustrating aspect of a Social Security Disability case. Many applications that should be meritorious are rejected until the appeals stage, so it is important to pursue your right to compensation if you can no longer work due to a mental or physical disability.
An Administrative Law Judge’s evaluation of an applicant’s pain is one of the most often challenged factors in disability or supplemental income benefits appeals. Appealing an ALJ’s determination of one’s disability highlights the subjectivity of the disability evaluation process and presents a great opportunity for an unfavorable ALJ’s decision to be overturned.
One recent SSI appeal focused on an ALJ’s rejection of an applicant’s complaints regarding his disabilities. The 51-year-old applicant had a history of coronary artery disease, sleep apnea and degenerative changes in his lumbar spine. The ALJ determined that the applicant’s symptoms were supported by the medical evidence but found that there were credibility issues with the man’s statements concerning the intensity of his pain.
The medical record contained doctors’ opinions that the man was “very debilitated” and one doctor even characterized the man as “unemployable.” The ALJ rejected these characterizations however as insufficient to be considered analysis of the man’s functional ability. Generally ALJs prefer medical determinations as to what tasks an applicant can and cannot do over blanket states concerning the job prospects of an applicant.
In this case the ALJ found that although the applicant was disabled and could not perform his past work, the applicant did have the ability to perform more sedentary jobs. We will discuss details of the appeal in our next post.
Source: United States Court of Appeals, “McLeod v. Astrue,” No. 09-35190