Saturday, March 27, 2010

Consultative Examinations

The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) almost always sends local disability applicants to IMA Disability Services for Consultative Examinations (“CE”). One has to question why, virtually without exception, the SSA insists on CEs even though the regulations severely limit the situations when a CE is appropriate and the weight they can be given.

The vast majority of the time, CEs contradict the supporting opinions of the treating physicians and are used to deny applications. I usually object to CEs for failing to conform to the regulations, and advise my clients not to attend, and the court agreed with my position when I argued the matter in litigation.

I took over the SSD case of a 34 year old cable television technician from another attorney when litigation was required. My primary argument was that the ALJ gave more weight to the opinions of the CEs than to the claimant’s treating doctors, and in doing so, failed to apply the treating physician rule properly. The district court judge ruled that: "As Plaintiff correctly notes, the ALJ cannot rely on those RFCs as evidence contradicting the Treating Physician RFC. This is because an inconsistency with a consultative examiner is not sufficient, on its own, to reject the opinion of the treating physician."

The case was reassigned to ALJ Faraguna on remand. ALJ rejected the opinion of the CE Mohammad Iqbal as “vague and confusing,” and CE Steven Calvino because it “flies in the face of all the objective evidence.” The claimant filed his SSD application over seven (7) years ago. The question is how long would it have taken the claimant to get his SSD benefits if he had objected to the CEs.

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