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ALJ credibility determination not credible, Pt.2

In our last post, we looked at a case where a federal court of appeals reversed an ALJ's determination that a worker applying for Social Security disability benefits was not disabled due to the credibility of statements she made about the pain she experienced.

She had suffered a back injury and medical evidence showed some issues with her lumbar discs, but there was no clear medical evidence of a debilitating condition. The ALJ concluded because she could do light tasks around her home, that this indicated she was not disabled.

In reversing the ALJs ruling, the court of appeals pointed out "the critical differences between activities of daily living and activities in a full‐time job are that a person has more flexibility in scheduling the former than the latter, can get help from other persons … and is not held to a minimum standard of performance, as she would be by an employer."

Spending five minutes washing dishes at a sink or 10 minutes of dusting or vacuuming may be very different from eight hours on your feet standing at a cash register scanning hundreds of items that demand your reaching and stretching with your arms and back.

Back pain is variable and physical medical evidence may be inherently inconclusive as to the level of pain actually experienced by the patient. The court of appeals notes that simply because someone can engage in some light household work does not imply that he or she can easily return to full-time work.

If your SSD claim is denied and you have to appeal, you want to make sure your arguments presented on appeal provide as much evidence that supports your claims as possible. The greater the specificity of your evidence, especially if you need to rely on your subjective experience, the better able you will be able to explain how your medical condition makes returning to work impossible.

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