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Case Summaries

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Case Summaries (Page 11)

Michigan District Court Reverses ALJ

In this case, referred by another attorney, the magistrate judge had recommended a ruling against us, but we were able to convince the District Court not to adopt the recommendation. This rarely happens, but it happened again to me for the fourth time this year. Essentially, the bottom line issue in this case was that the evidence supported mental limitations which the ALJ did not adopt, or adequately explain their rejection. The problem in this case was that, for whatever reason, the claimant was not in mental health treatment, but her very long time PCP had been prescribing medications and made observations at least sufficient enough to establish step 2 severity and, therefore, mental limitations. The District Court overruled the magistrate judge on the basis that the MJ had conflated the step 2 analysis with the step 4 analysis, and remanded for reconsideration of the claimant’s mental impairments.

Iowa District Court Reverses ALJ

In this case referred by another attorney, the claimant absolutely had a serious DAA problem with numerous relapses, some elements of noncompliance. But, the Brueggeman Eighth Circuit decision is really the only circuit decision that explicitly requires ALJs to follow the old emergency memo and now SSR 13-2p, and so even though this claimant plainly had a serious DAA problem the ALJ erred when he failed to consider the numerous periods of time when the claimant was sober, and how the evidence in terms of mental functioning really didn’t change much during those periods. Also, the ALJ did not really use the 13-2p analysis but rather just used DAA to attack credibility. Case remanded for reconsideration under the appropriate standards.

Western District of Arkansas

In this case, on referral by another attorney, the government moved for remand without filing a brief, after reading ours, and the Western District of Arkansas agreed. Although we do not normally get a very clear or specific indication of the errors that the government feels require a voluntary remand I believe one in particular, that the SSA examining psychologist had recommended neuropsychological evaluation to evaluate the claimant’s cognitive limitations, an examination of the claimant could not afford, and which had been explicitly declined for coverage by his insurance company, was SSA’s main issue with defending the case. However, the ALJ’s so-called mental RFC for “unskilled work” was inconsistent with SSA’s examining psychologist’s assessment, and the SSA consultant psychologist had described the claimant as limited to only 1 or 2 step tasks, and a review of the step 5 jobs provided by the VE indicated clearly that all of the named jobs required more than 1 or 2 steps, so it may have just been death by a thousand cuts.

Northern District of Ohio

In this case, on referral from another office, the Northern District of Ohio remanded on November 25. Although the court disagreed with our argument that the claimant met the requirements of Listing 12.05 (which I continue to adamantly disagree with), it agreed that the ALJ otherwise failed to give appropriate consideration to the claimant’s mental impairments when forming the RFC. In particular, in the Sixth Circuit, per Ealy, an ALJ should, in most situations, incorporate mental limitations from the PRT analysis particularly where, as here, the ALJ’s mental RFC was extremely nonspecific.

Eastern District of Wisconsin

This case, on referral from another attorney, was remanded by the District Court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin because the ALJ had failed to give appropriate consideration to the psychological consultative examiner, and to the state agency consultant psychologist, whose assessments established far greater limitations than was set forth in the ALJ’s mental RFC for “simple routine jobs”. With respect to both opinions, the ALJ claimed to give these opinions “great weight” but failed to incorporate the limitations fairly set forth in those decisions.