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Case Summaries

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Case Summaries (Page 5)

Massachusetts District Court Reverses ALJ

November 4, 2015. A claimant with fibromyalgia, among other impairments, was denied benefits. Despite numerous medical records to the contrary, the ALJ did not consider the claimant’s fibromyalgia as even a non-severe impairment, and found that the claimant’s description of her symptoms lacked credibility because there was little objective medical evidence. The district court noted that fibromyalgia is a disease that is “characterized by the lack of objective medical…findings” and remanded the case for further proceedings. It also found that the ALJ’s treatment of the claimant’s daily activities when determining that she was able to work was concerning, as a person need not be totally incapacitated to be found disabled, but rather, be incapable of performing substantial gainful activity.

Maryland District Court Reverses ALJ

October 9, 2015. A claimant with shoulder, elbow, and knee injuries, as well as headaches was denied benefits, based in part on testimony from a vocational expert that there were jobs that existed in the economy that she could perform. This testimony was based on a hypothetical question that only considered limitations to one side of the claimant’s body, whereas the ALJ found that the claimant had limitations in both sides. The district court found that this inconsistency required a remand for further proceedings to allow the ALJ to correct or explain his position.

Texas District Court Reverses ALJ

October 2, 2015. A claimant with mental impairments was denied benefits. Two state agency examining consultants diagnosed the claimant with depression, and difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, and pace. While the ALJ discussed these opinions, he did not explain the weight he gave to them in making a mental RFC determination. We successfully argued that the ALJ failed to explain the weight assigned to the state agency examining consultants’ opinions, and the district court remanded for further proceedings.

North Carolina District Court Reverses ALJ

October 5, 2015. The district court found that the ALJ “did a completely inadequate job of analyzing medical records and explaining her decision[.]” The ALJ found that the claimant only had moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace, despite the medical record being “replete with evidence” of the claimant’s difficulties with concentration. Additionally, the district court found that the ALJ’s analysis of the claimant’s treating doctor’s opinions were “factually incorrect and legally insufficient”.

North Carolina District Court Reverses ALJ

November 3, 2015. The claimant was found to have severe impairments and had moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace, but the ALJ held he could perform light work. A vocational expert testified in the administrative hearing, and was given a hypothetical example of a claimant who could perform unskilled work, with little interaction with others. The vocational expert based his testimony on this hypothetical claimant in concluding that such an individual could perform other jobs; the ALJ used this testimony to come to the same conclusion. The district court reversed, holding that the hypothetical posed to the vocational expert did not account for the ALJ’s findings of limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace.

Louisiana District Court Remands for Further Proceedings

February 26, 2016.  In this case, a claimant with severe back pain required the use of a cane to even walk short distances, however, the ALJ neglected to include the use for a cane in her finding that the claimant could perform a reduced range of sedentary work.  The district court reversed, holding that the ALJ did not consider how the need for a cane would reduce the range of sedentary work further.  The district court went on to undermine the Commissioner’s argument that the vocational expert provided examples of jobs that an individual could perform with a cane, noting that while this may have been true, the ALJ did not rely on that testimony in her ultimate finding, holding that “the Commissioner’s decision ‘must stand or fall within the reasons set forth in the ALJ’s decision”.

Michigan District Court Reverses ALJ

August 11, 2015. Here, the ALJ denied benefits to a claimant who had significant mental impairments that precluded him from performing skilled work activity. A vocational expert testified as to the type of jobs that were available, but was not asked any questions with regard to the mental limitations that the claimant faced. The District Court reversed, holding that the vocational expert needs to be asked questions that accurately portray both the physical and mental limitations that the claimant faces, and that this testimony is necessary to determine whether there are jobs that still exist for claimants such as the one in this case, given all of the mental limitations they face on a daily basis.

California District Court Reverses ALJ

August 25, 2015. In this case, the ALJ rejected the treating psychiatrist’s opinion for inconsistencies, without much more explanation. The inconsistencies cited were misunderstandings that should have been cleared up in the hearing. The District Court held that the ALJ failed to cite specific and legitimate reasons supported by substantial evidence. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

Colorado District Court Reverses ALJ

August 17, 2015. A claimant with numerous impairments, including arthritis, was denied benefits in the ALJ hearing. The ALJ rejected the impairment of arthritis because the record lacked a formal diagnosis. We successfully argued that the ALJ did not fully develop the record with regard to all of the claimant’s impairments, namely, arthritis, even after the Social Security Administration’s examining expert stated the record was inadequate and needed to be fully developed. The District Court agreed with our argument, finding that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate all of the evidence and make the necessary inquiries to fully develop the record.

Oklahoma District Court Reverses ALJ

August 31, 2015. Here, the ALJ found that while the claimant suffered from severe impairments, she was still able to perform her former jobs. In making this determination, the ALJ did not take into account the primary reason for the claimant’s work limitations-migraine headaches. The ALJ rarely mentioned the migraines in his decision, and didn’t consider all of the environmental factors in a work environment that would have an impact on the claimant’s ability to find work. The District Court remanded for further proceedings to ensure that the migraines were accounted for in the disability determination.