At a time when disabled individual's are waiting months, and sometimes years, to appear before an Administrative Law Judge for a hearing on their application for Social Security Disability benefits, it is imperative that the ALJ's consider all the evidence and make sound decisions. When an Administrative Law Judge fails to properly consider the evidence however, an appeal is necessary.
In this case, the claimant had a hearing in Madison before an Administrative Law Judge. She was a 51-year old woman with less than a high school education. Her past relevant work experience was as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Her disability primarily resulted from neuropathy in her feet and legs, which made it difficult for her to walk, requiring regular use of a cane and exposed her to the risk of falling. She also had a mental impairment that affected her memory and speech, and on occasion resulted in episodes where she blacked out but did not lose consciousness. According to Social Security's definitions, the claimant was also considered obese.
The Administrative Law Judge heard testimony not only from the claimant but from Medical and Vocational experts. The vocational expert testified that the claimant's restrictions and limitations, especially the use of a cane would preclude work above a sedentary level. Social Security's guidelines dictate that an individual of the claimant's age without a high school education restricted to sedentary work is considered disabled. The Administrative Law Judge however, declared that the claimant was capable of light work, without providing support in the record for his conclusion, and denied benefits.
With the help of Attorney Jennifer Allen, the claimant filed an appeal of the ALJ's decision, identifying the many missteps taken by the ALJ to deny the claimant's benefits. The Appeals Council reviewed the claimant's case and determined that the ALJ had not properly considered all elements of the claimant's conditions and resultant restrictions and limitations. Rather than remand the case back to Madison however, the Appeals Council reversed the ALJ's decision, issued a fully favorable decision, and awarded the claimant her benefits, resulting in almost 4 years of past due benefits. This successful appeal is just another reason why disabled individuals should contact an attorney when applying for Social Security Disability benefits.
Attorney Jennifer J. Allen is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C. If you have any questions about Social Security Disability, please contact her at JAllen@Employee-Advocates.com.