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Vocational Experts and Hypothetical Questions from ALJs in Your Social Security Disability Case

| May 29, 2024 | Social Security |

When you’re pursuing SSDI and/or SSI benefits, there’s a specific process your case has to follow. You don’t necessarily have to know or remember all of the minute details of this process. Your skilled Chicago Social Security Disability lawyer is there to do that. Your knowledgeable attorney will have in-depth familiarity with all of these details and can help you ensure that, once you obtain a finding in your favor, you are given the benefit of that finding throughout the rest of the process.

Not sure what we mean by this? Here’s an example from right here in Northern Illinois. S.S., according to her application for SSDI and SSI, was a woman who experienced an onset of severe disability in her early 40s. She had depression, anxiety, and “somatization of left arm pain, leg pain, and neck pain.”

During the hearing process, the administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled that S.S. had “a moderate limitation with regard to concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace.” This is a disability in which, according to the Social Security Administration, the applicant is limited in her “ability to sustain focused attention and concentration sufficiently long to permit the timely and appropriate completion of tasks commonly found in work settings.”

After the ALJ made that finding, a vocational expert took the stand. This person is the Social Security Administration’s expert who typically is going to testify that you can work and whose testimony generally will weigh against you receiving an award of benefits.

As part of the process, a residual functional capacity evaluation (RFC) will be done. One of the bases for formulating that RFC may be the ALJ asking the vocational expert certain hypothetical questions. But all of these pieces must be connected. What that means is that, when the ALJ asks the vocational expert hypothetical questions as part of the RFC process, those questions must factor into their premises your limitation regarding concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace.

The 7th Circuit, whose opinions control Illinois cases, has been very clear on this. In 2019, that court wrote, “Again and again, we have said that when an ALJ finds there are documented limitations of concentration, persistence, and pace, the hypothetical question presented to the [vocational expert] must account for these limitations. We have also made clear that in most cases employing terms like ‘simple, repetitive tasks’ on their own will not necessarily exclude from the [vocational expert]’s consideration those positions that present significant problems of concentration, persistence and pace.”

In S.S.’s case, that didn’t happen, so she was entitled to a reversal of her denial of benefits.

When you have reached the point where you need to seek SSDI benefits, winning that case is inevitably supremely important to you. Make sure your case is in the best possible hands. Count on the AV-rated firm of Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. Our skilled Social Security Disability lawyers are familiar with all the “ins” and “outs” of the process and know how to get you the benefits you deserve. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.

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