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Case Summaries

Osterhout Berger Disability Law > Case Summaries (Page 8)

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.

South Carolina District Court Reverses ALJ

May 28, 2015. In this case, on referral from a national Social Security representative group, we successfully argued for the primacy of the treating source evidence, which was uncontradicted in the record (except for a very outdated nonexamining consultant’s assessment). Relatedly, the ALJ had failed to comply with long-standing Fourth Circuit precedent and with 404.1529’s requirements that the evaluation of pain is a two-step process. Finally, the court also agreed that the ALJ’s minimalist mental RFC finding for “simple routine repetitive tasks” did not adequately capture the complexity of the claimant’s mental impairments as described in the SSA consultative examiner’s opinion he purported to give “significant weight” to.

New York District Court Reverses ALJ

May 21, 2015. In this case, on referral from a Texas law firm, we successfully argued essentially that the ALJ erred when he failed to find that the claimant had any mental limitations of his ability to work, even though SSA’s examiner and the underlying evidence was contrary to this finding. This error rippled into to other errors, which was the ALJ’s patently inadequate RFC finding, and his concomitant failure to take testimony from a vocational expert to satisfy his step 5 burden.

Texas District Court Reverses ALJ

May 19, 2015. In this case, on referral from a law firm in Texas, we successfully argued (with the government agreeing and moving for voluntary remand) that the ALJ erred first by failing to note that the claimant’s age category had changed shortly before his date last insured, a change which required an award of benefits pursuant to the Medical Vocational Guidelines applicable to claimant’s age 55+. With respect to the pre-55 period, the government at least facially agreed with our argument that the ALJ had failed to appropriately consider treating source evidence consistent with 404.1527 and the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Newton v. Apfel.

Illinois District Court Reverses ALJ

May 19, 2015. In this case, on referral from a national Social Security representative group, we successfully argued that the ALJ had failed to appropriately analyze medical opinion evidence and in particular had failed, given the very favorable vocational profile, to consider that claimant had a significant sit stand/option limitation, as identified by his treating sources as well as the agency’s physicians. The government moved for remand following the filing of our brief.

New York District Court Reverses ALJ

May 13, 2015. In this case, on referral from a national Social Security representative group, we successfully argued that the ALJ had failed to appropriately evaluate the medical opinion evidence of record, failed to consult a vocational expert prior to making his step 5 finding that the claimant could perform other work, and (at least arguably) failed to find that the claimant’s mental impairments were “severe”. The government moved for remand following the filing of our brief.

Texas District Court Reverses ALJ

May 12, 2015. In this case, on referral from a law firm in Texas, SSA moved for voluntary remand after our brief was filed. At issue primarily was the ALJ’s finding that the claimant had no “severe impairments”, even though the evidence supported a finding that the claimant had intractable migraine headaches related to a brain tumor (meningioma). An interesting (although tragic, in a way) feature of this case was the fact that the ALJs nonsevere impairment finding went on ad nauseum about the fact that a “hemangioma” (birthmark) could not possibly be disabling!

Claimant Awarded $180,000 following Federal Court Remand

In this case, which I inherited after the claimant’s previous attorney discharged her, we successfully argued before a West Virginia district court that the ALJ had failed in numerous respects, including a failure to follow the agency’s protocol for evaluating pain cases (which, ironically, had its genesis to a great extent in several Fourth Circuit decisions in the 90s); failure to appropriately evaluate the opinion evidence which, in this case included several well-crafted treating source opinions, as well as two consultative examiners whose opinions generally supported the claimant’s claim. Because it seemed like every delay that could occur in a case occurred in this lady’s case, by the time we were before the ALJ on remand it had been six years, the claimant was a high earner and had two beneficiaries, resulting in the significant amount of pass to benefit she was awarded following the remand hearing.

Claimant Awarded $49,000 Following Remand

April 12, 2015. This case was remanded by the Eastern District of Michigan District Court to reconsider the ALJ’s nonsevere migraine headache finding, and to provide a legally sufficient discussion of the claimant’s longtime treating physician’s assessment of her mental and physical disabilities. At the supplemental hearing the ALJ offered a fully favorable decision in exchange for an amended onset date to the claimant’s 50th birthday (which claimant’s previous representative had actually suggested in a prehearing memorandum prior to the initial hearing), and the ALJ ruled from the bench in her favor.