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Case Summaries

OBL on FIRE: OBL Win Results in Over $300,000 to Claimant

This case falls into the “it never hurts to ask” category. But, before you can ask, you really need to dig into a case, and Lindsay was very persistent with SSA about producing files related to applications for benefits the claimant told her he had filed in the distant past. Because she was so persistent and focused in her strategy for the case, she obtained evidence that SSA had actually found our client disabled in the late 90s (he never actually received any benefits because of excess resources). However, the finding of disability was made by SSA prior to our client’s 22nd birthday, a key date to establish that he was entitled to disability benefits based on his parent’s earnings record. Moreover, it had overlooked this fact when it had previously considered our client’s claim for these benefits in an application he filed many years ago.

Thus, Lindsay was able to convince the ALJ not only that our client was disabled on or before his 22nd birthday, but also that the previous application for benefits should be reopened because of the mistake made by SSA in failing to acknowledge and rely upon its own previous finding that he was disabled. As a result, he was awarded benefits based upon the much earlier application date and his past-due benefits are the largest amount OBL has ever obtained (or even heard of). Best wishes to our client, and big-time congratulations to Lindsay!

Following an appeal by Osterhout Berger Disability Law The Hartford overturns its denial of Own Occupation benefits to a highly-skilled Project Director.

Our client, a professional in the construction field, was awarded benefits in 2016 due to severe and constant back pain. Despite very little change in his condition The Hartford terminated his benefits in April 2018 after determining that he could return to his own occupation.

The claimant retained Osterhout Berger and we agreed to represent him on a contingent basis, accepting a fee only if we were successful in having his benefits reinstated. We immediately ordered the claim file and obtained an Independent Medical Examination from a well-qualified physician. We also updated medical opinion evidence from our client’s treating physician. Our review of the claim file also revealed an inadequate evaluation by The Hartford of our client’s own occupation, thus we obtained an independent vocational evaluation.

Our reviewing our appeal, Hartford overturned its prior decision and noted that “based upon our review that included additional information received and generated on appeal, it was determined that the information in your client’s file supports his claim for Disability.” As a result, our client received a large amount of past due benefits and a resumption of monthly benefits.

If you have had a similar situation and Hartford (or any insurance company) has denied your claim, please do not hesitate to contact Osterhout Berger Disability Law for a free consultation.

Arizona District Court Reverses ALJ

April 11, 2017.  The ALJ denied benefits to a claimant with arthritis, among other impairments, finding she could perform “light” work, yet neglecting to include her need for a cane in his RFC finding or hypothetical question to the vocational expert at the hearing.  The district court reversed, finding that we “convincingly” argued that the definition of light work assumes the ability to use both hands and would be significantly diminished for an individual who required the use of a cane, which the ALJ omitted from his analysis.

Georgia District Court Remands

March 31, 2017.  After the ALJ denied benefits, the claimant submitted additional evidence to the Appeals Council regarding his gastrointestinal impairment and diabetes (including a medical source statement from the claimant’s treating provider), however, the Appeals Council found that this evidence was not reasonably likely to change the ALJ’s decision and declined to vacate the ALJ’s decision.  The district court found that this was error; the evidence submitted to the Appeals Council was new, material, and chronologically relevant and the Appeals Council erred by simply acknowledging it but making no further mention of it in is review.  The case was revered and remanded for further proceedings.

Minnesota District Court reverses ALJ

March 29, 2017.  The ALJ denied benefits on the basis that the claimant could perform other work in the national economy, relying on vocational expert testimony that there were jobs available that accommodated for the claimant’s limitation to “simple, routine, 1-2 step tasks”.  We successfully argued that the jobs provided by the vocational expert were inconsistent with the descriptions in the DOT, as the jobs required a higher reasoning level than the ALJ’s RFC provided.  The district court reversed, finding that there was a conflict in the vocational expert’s testimony that was not resolved and therefore, the ALJ’s step 5 finding was not supported by substantial evidence.

Indiana District Court Remands

March 27, 2017.  In this case, the claimant objected to vocational expert testimony, but the ALJ failed to address these objections at all, one of which dealt with the fact that the vocational expert’s testimony was not consistent with more up-to-date information.  The district court found that thiss was error, holding that the ALJ has an obligation to address all objections, and remanded for further proceedings.

Arizona District Court reverses ALJ

March 24, 2017.  Here, the claimant complained of extreme pain that prevented her from working, yet the objective medical evidence did not show pain to this extent.  The ALJ, discrediting the claimant’s subjective complaints of pain, denied benefits.  We successfully argued that there was no evidence to suggest the claimant was malingering, and that an ALJ cannot reject subjective complaints of pain solely on the basis of objective medical evidence.  The district court held that the ALJ’s credibility finding was not based on substantial evidence, and remanded for further proceedings.

Texas District Court reverses ALJ

March 24, 2017.  A claimant with diabetes and complications from diabetes was denied benefits when the ALJ found that he could perform other work, after dismissing the opinion of the claimant’s treating physician that he could only perform part-time work at best as the opinion was inconsistent with treatment records.  The district court held that the ALJ improperly analyzed this opinion as required by the regulations, finding that the purported inconsistency did not excuse the ALJ from “bypassing the detailed analysis” required in the regulations, and remanded for further proceedings.

California District Court reverses ALJ

March 21, 2017.  Here, a claimant of advanced age changed age categories to an individual closely approaching retirement age.  The ALJ found that she was capable of performing her past relevant light work as customer service representative, despite finding that she could only walk or stand two hours a day (exceeding “light” work requirements).  The ALJ also found that she could perform other jobs involving sedentary work, without vocational testimony that her skills would transfer with “very little, if any, vocational adjustment”.  We argued that this was error, and the district court agreed, holding that the ALJ’s decision was void of any findings with regard to transferability of skills, given Plaintiff’s age, and remanded for further proceedings.