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How Proof that You Provide Care for Family Members Doesn’t Have to Be Fatal to Your Claim for SSI or Disability Benefits in Illinois

| Oct 6, 2020 | Social Security |

When you are seeking SSI and disability insurance benefits, you need to persuade the judge of several things. One of those things is that you have limitations and those limitations prevent you from holding a job. A recent case from nearby northern Indiana is an important reminder that, even if you are able to engage in certain basic activities around your home, you may still be too limited to work and still be entitled to benefits. Getting those critical benefits requires various forms of proof, and it pays to have an experienced Chicago Social Security disability attorney on your side, who knows how to present the evidence you need for success.

The applicant in that recent case, B.T., was a woman with multiple health issues, including diabetes, obesity, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. Despite these limitations she cared for her daughter with disabilities, as well as for her father. She also volunteered at her church. The administrative law judge who first heard B.T.’s case ruled against her, concluding that the evidence indicated that B.T.’s limitations would not prevent her from working.

A federal District Court judge, however, revived the case. That opinion is very instructive. As the judge explained in his opinion, just because you are capable of doing some activities, that doesn’t automatically mean that you are capable of doing work for an employer. The administrative law judge ruled against B.T., in part, because the evidence indicated that she could cook, manage her personal hygiene, clean and do laundry. However, the way B.T. was performing at home contained some critical differences from how she would be expected to perform at any workplace.

At home, B.T. could clean, cook, do dishes and wash clothes throughout the day at whatever pace she desired and “without being held to any minimum standard of performance.” At work, she would be expected to perform tasks assigned by her employer (as opposed to those of her own choosing,) complete those assignments on a schedule dictated by the employer, and do them at a minimum level of proficiency required by the employer. As such, what B.T. was doing at home was “not comparable to full-time, competitive work.” In other words, the bare evidence that B.T. cooked, cleaned, did laundry, did dishes and cared for herself at home did not, by itself, prove that she was not too limited to hold a job.

The same was true regarding the evidence that B.T. cared for her daughter with special needs and her father. In order to deny you benefits, there has to be more than just evidence of your activities – there has to be clear evidence that those activities demonstrate an ability to work for an employer. The judge noted that, in this case, there was “little to no evidence” about what B.T. did for her daughter or father and, based on what little evidence did appear on the record, there was no indication that what B.T. did proved she could hold a job.

Why a case decided in Indiana may matter to you here in Illinois

While the court that issued this decision was in Indiana, this judge’s decision is still noteworthy. Federal judges in Indiana, like federal judges in Illinois, look to the rulings of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals as they decide cases. The 7th Circuit has, in the past, ruled that “minimal daily activities are not inconsistent with reported inability to sustain full-time work because, among other reasons, the individual can perform activities at their own pace, punctuated by rest, and without any minimum standard of performance.” The 7th Circuit court has also ruled that caring for a family member often may not necessarily be proof of a lack of a limitation, urging judges to show “caution in equating [daily] activities with the challenges of daily employment in a competitive environment, especially when the claimant is caring for a family member.”

In other words, many of the same grounds that allowed this woman to succeed in the Northern District of Indiana could potentially benefit an applicant in Illinois, too.

For the insightful, diligent, detail-oriented and client-focused representation you deserve, count on the knowledgeable Social Security disability attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.