New Tool for Representatives: Circuit Reporter
Karl Osterhout knows how important it is for representatives to stay on top of recent developments and social security court cases and that is why he has added the Circuit Reporter to our website. “Just as a natural course of doing business in district courts all across the country, we need to keep track of case law developments throughout all the federal circuits. It dawned on me one day that since we have all this information that we have to accumulate anyway, it might be worthwhile to folks if we published it. For someone, for instance, practicing in the Second Circuit, it could be very helpful to read through the reported and unreported cases of that court in no more than an hour or so, which might guide a representative out there in developing their case on their client’s behalf,” adds Osterhout.
Example from Fifth Circuit:
Garcia v. Berryhill, 880 F.3d 700 (5th Cir. 2018).
Plaintiff, a Vietnam veteran, applied for social security disability benefits based on hearing loss and PTSD. The ALJ denied Plaintiff’s application, concluding that plaintiff was not disabled and capable of performing his past relevant work. The Appeals Council declined review. Plaintiff appealed under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), arguing (1) the ALJ impermissibly relied on the VA’s summary of his treating expert’s evaluation, rather than obtaining directly reviewing a copy of the evaluation itself; (2) the ALJ improperly determined that plaintiff’s PTSD was non-severe; and (3) the ALJ was required to and failed to properly consider the VA’s “100% disability rating.”
The court disagreed. The court found that any failure to obtain the actual report was at most harmless and an ALJ’s failure to include certain documentation in the record is ground for reversal only if the applicant can show prejudice. Brock v. Chater, 84 F.3d 726, 728 (5th Cir. 1996) (requiring applicant to show that omitted material “might have altered the result”). Plaintiff presented “no reason to believe the original report would somehow swing the evidentiary pendulum in his favor.” Second, the court found the ALJ “rigorously considered the four broad functional areas set out in the disability regulation for evaluating the severity of mental disorders.” Finally, the court found “the VA’s determination does not bind the Commissioner; it is merely “evidence . . . that must be considered” and that the ALJ did just that. Chambliss v. Massanari, 269 F.3d 520, 522 (5th Cir. 2001). The court affirmed the district court’s judgment.
Click HERE to access the Circuit Reporter. We’ll continue to update this section with relevant decisions that can help you WIN!