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Case Summaries

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Case Summaries (Page 4)

Alaska District Court Reverses ALJ

October 14, 2016.  The claimant in this case suffered from chronic pain, arthritis, fatigue, and depression.  His treating physician offered a “poor, ultimately crippling” prognosis, opining that the claimant could perform less than a full range of light work, however, the ALJ rejected this opinion and further, discredited the claimant’s complaints because of his lack of consistent treatment.  We argued that the denial of benefits in this case was erroneous, in part, because the claimant’s lack of treatment was explained by his lack of insurance and financial resources.  The district court agreed, finding that the ALJ had a duty to question the claimant about his sporadic medical care or request a medical evaluation prior to making a denial based on insufficient evidence.

Pennsylvania District Court Reverses ALJ

September 29, 2016.  In this case, a claimant with severe mental impairments (in addition to severe neck and shoulder impairments) was denied benefits.  Part of her treatment record included participation in a long-term partial hospitalization program, yet the ALJ did not sufficiently address this in his decision.  We argued that his failure to do so resulted in a denial that was not supported by substantial evidence.  The district court agreed, holding that this error left questions as to whether the ALJ considered the severity of the claimant’s mental health impairments or even if the claimant was able to work while participating in this program.

Massachusetts District Court Reverses ALJ

September 29, 2016.  Here, the ALJ found that the claimant was capable of walking and standing only 2 hours in an 8-hour workday, but limited him to jobs that, by definition, required “a good deal of walking”.  The ALJ based his denial on vocational expert testimony that there were a significant number of jobs that existed that would accommodate for the claimant’s limitation to standing and walking only 2 hours a day, but did not provide any basis to support his reasoning.  The district court found that there were “substantial questions” about the accuracy and reliability of the vocational expert’s testimony and methodology.  It reversed the ALJ’s decision, holding that without clarity as to the methodology used to come with the jobs provided, it was unable to find that the ALJ’s decision was based on substantial evidence.

Michigan District Court Reverses ALJ

September 29, 2016.  The ALJ denied benefits to a claimant with degenerative disc disease, among other impairments, after rejecting the opinion of her primary care physician.  The district court found that the ALJ erred by substituting her own lay opinion for that of the claimant’s physician, whose opinion was based on his own abnormal clinical findings, the claimant’s statements of disabling pain, and x-rays, and remanded for further proceedings.

Colorado District Court Reverses ALJ

September 28, 2016.  In this case, a claimant with severe migraines was denied benefits, in part because the ALJ characterized her migraines as “severe headaches” when conducting his listing analysis.  We successfully argued that the difference between the two impairments was not minimal, and in fact, could have been outcome determinative due to the severe symptoms associated with the claimant’s migraines.  The district court reversed, holding that without providing a discussion as to why the ALJ found she had migraines in one step of his analysis, but severe headaches in another left the court “beyond meaningful judicial review”.

North Carolina District Court Reverses ALJ

September 26, 2016.  In this case, the ALJ denied benefits, in part, after finding that a claimant with moderate limitations with regard to concentration, persistence, or pace was able to perform simple, repetitive tasks.  The district court reversed and remanded for further proceedings after we successfully argued that this restriction, without further explanation, did not adequately account for the claimant’s limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace.

Texas District Court Reverses ALJ

September 21, 2016.  In this case, the ALJ denied benefits to a 49-year-old claimant with several severe impairments, including obesity, chronic pain syndrome, and lumbar degenerative disc disease.  Included in the medical record were several medical opinions of the Agency’s own examining and non-examining physicians, as well as the claimant’s treating specialists that the ALJ either discounted or did not discuss at all.  We successfully argued that the ALJ’s failure to consider these opinions left his decision to be unsupported by substantial evidence.  In particular, the opinion of the claimant’s longtime orthopedic surgeon that limited him to no more than part-time work, and that he suffered a chronic disability was outcome determinative.  The district court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

Vermont District Court Remands Case

September 20, 2016.  The claimant in this case was an Iraq War veteran who suffered numerous impairments related to his proximity to IED explosions while deployed.  The ALJ denied benefits, disregarding the claimant’s 90% service-connected disability rating from the VA and disregarding evidence that relief from frequently occurring headaches was only achieved when he relaxed with no light or sound.  The district court reversed, holding that the ALJ improperly discredited the VA rating and further, should have accounted for the impacts the claimant’s headaches had on his ability to perform work on a full-time basis, given the vocational expert’s testimony that an individual with the claimant’s impairments who was unable to be on task 95% of the work day or more, or would be absent from work more than once a month would not be employable.

Oklahoma District Court Reverses ALJ

September 16, 2016.  The claimant in this case was a child with ADHD.  The ALJ denied benefits, citing a lack of evidence concerning cognitive deficits.  We successfully argued that the evidence did exist, in particular, with opinions and statements from her school officials and psychologists, who provided proof that the claimant had “marked limitations” in several cognitive functioning domains. The district court held that this evidence outweighed the opinions of State Agency physicians who reviewed the claimant’s medical record, but did not examine the claimant, and that the ALJ’s decision was not based on substantial evidence.

Minnesota District Court Reverses ALJ

September 12, 2016.  In this case, the claimant with anxiety and depression, among other impairments, was denied benefits.  While she was evaluated at a Social Security Administration consultative psychological examination, the opinion of the Agency’s consultative psychologist that the claimant would have difficulty interacting with others and tolerating work-place stresses due to her psychological impairments was not discussed at all by the ALJ, and further, these limitations were not included in his RFC finding.  The district court held that this was error, finding that the ALJ’s analysis did not provide sufficient information to engage in proper review.