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Case Summaries

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Case Summaries (Page 6)

Louisiana District Court Reverses ALJ

August 10, 2015. In this case, the claimant suffered from a degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine and cervical spondylosis. The ALJ based his denial of benefits on old medical reports and opinions of non-treating doctors. We argued that the new medical records should be given more weight than the older ones because of the degenerative nature of the claimant’s disease. The District Court agreed, and reversed on the basis that new medical evidence and the opinion of treating physicians should not be ignored.

Indiana District Court Reverses ALJ

September 1, 2015. Here, we successfully argued that the ALJ incorrectly evaluated the claimant’s credibility. Rarely is an ALJ’s assessment of a claimant’s credibility discounted, however, in this case, the ALJ did not support his reasoning. Even the government failed to defend the ALJ’s credibility determination, and the District Court held that it was “patently wrong”, requiring reversal of his decision.

Texas District Court Reverses ALJ

August 25, 2015. A claimant who suffered from such severe migraines that he had to miss several days of work on a monthly basis was denied SSI after the ALJ improperly discredited the opinion of his treating neurologist. The neurologist had seen the claimant frequently for over five years, but the ALJ did not consider his opinion when making his decision, nor did he provide an explanation for failing to do so. The District Court held that the ALJ was clearly in error when he gave no explanation, and remanded for further proceedings.

Wisconsin District Court Reverses ALJ

August 14, 2015. Here, the claimant suffered from mental impairments that prevented her from productive at work, as she would be off-task for a significant portion of the day. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision stating that the claimant would be able to find suitable positions that allowed her to be off-task 10% of the day, as testified to by the vocational expert (the expert also testified that there are no jobs that would allow an employee to be off-task more than 10% of the day). The ALJ did not explain how he came to this arbitrary and convenient percentage, and the District Court remanded for further proceedings.

Connecticut District Court Reverses ALJ

August 11, 2015. The claimant in this case was found to have severe impairments and couldn’t work in her previous jobs, but the ALJ found that there were other jobs available. We successfully argued that the ALJ should have considered a vocational expert’s testimony, rather than solely relying on the Social Security Administration’s Medical Vocational Guidelines.

Pennsylvania District Court Reverses ALJ

August 8, 2015. In this case, the claimant suffered from back, neck, shoulder, and leg pain for over five years that her treating physician and surgeon stated were work-related functional impairments that would prevent her from any employment. The ALJ rejected the medial opinion based on lay analysis. The District Court reversed, holding that the ALJ rejected the professional opinions for the “wrong reasons”: the ALJ went through the medical records and only selected those that supported his position.

Oklahoma District Court Reverses ALJ

June 3, 2015. In this case, on referral by a sole practitioner non-attorney representative, we convince the government to voluntarily remand the case primarily on the basis of our argument that the ALJ had failed to ensure that an adequate record was developed. In particular, the claimant, who had no insurance, had submitted evidence strongly suggestive of the fact that her pulmonary condition had greatly worsened and, on the basis of various authorities convinced the government that the ALJ should have at a bare minimum have ordered updated pulmonary function testing. Moreover (and, frankly, this may have been the kicker), the ALJ blatantly relied upon extra record evidence in the form of extensive citations to a 1992 version of a medical journal as at least a partial rationale for his decision to deny benefits.

Pennsylvania District Court Reverses ALJ

June 3, 2015. In this case, one of our own, we successfully argued that the ALJ erred by granting “great weight” to the assessments of SSA’s examining and nonexamining psychologists and yet not including mental limitations plainly identified in those opinions in his RFC finding. The ALJ had also criticized the treating therapist’s opinion is a “nonacceptable source”, with little more analysis than that; while the court did not rule on this argument directly, it did state in the decision that while it was not ruling on our argument because it had already decided to remand, that the ALJ “should take a close look, consistent with the story cited by plaintiff” at the therapist’s opinions on remand.

North Carolina District Court Reverses ALJ

May 28, 2015. In this case, on referral from a national Social Security representative group, we personally appeared at oral argument before the District Court in Raleigh, North Carolina and successfully argued that the ALJ had failed, generally, in not incorporating concentration persistence and pace deficits he himself found to exist in his decision into the RFC finding. Moreover, the Fourth Circuit recently ruled in Mascio v. Colvin that it was adopting the rule of the Eleventh Circuit in Winschell v. Commissioner that an ALJ’s finding of moderate limitation of concentration, persistence and pace is not captured by an RFC finding for “unskilled work”.

Florida District Court Reverses ALJ

May 26, 2015. In this case, on referral from a Florida Social Security representative group, the agency moved for voluntary remand after our brief was filed. The issues in this case revolved around the ALJ’s step 4 findings, which we challenged in toto – – we showed that the ALJ erred by incorrectly finding that she was able to perform it “as actually performed” based upon his own RFC finding, and further identified error (particularly in light of the as actually performed finding) in the fact that the ALJ’s discussion of the “as generally performed” aspect of step 4 was literally nonexistent. Moreover, we pointed out that the ALJ had failed to consider two plainly documented medical conditions in formulating his RFC. And, finally, the agency agreed that the Appeals Council had improperly designated medical evidence submitted to it as “about a later time” when the evidence facially proved otherwise.