Wednesday, May 26, 2010

District Court Remand

I took over the case from another attorney of a 52 year old Salvadoran aircraft plater who speaks very little English and has no formal education. The ALJ rejected the opinions of the claimant’s doctors solely on the grounds that they were inconsistent and lacked supporting findings. I argued that if the ALJ believed that the doctors’ reports contained a conflict or ambiguity, then his duty to develop the administrative record required him to ask the treating doctor to explain the alleged inconsistency or missing information. I also argued that the ALJ improperly rejected the claimant’s testimony.

Today, Judge Denis Hurley agreed with my arguments, and ruled that the Social Security Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed (a) to explain his reasons for finding that the treating doctors’ opinions were not well-supported by acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques or were inconsistent with substantial evidence; (b) to identify the inconsistencies between the treating doctors’ opinions and the other medical evidence in the record; (c) to consider what weight to give to the treating doctors’ opinions; (d) to do a function by function analysis of the claimant’s ability to work; and (e) to consider the claimant’s testimony regarding his symptoms.

Reviewing Judge Hurley’s decision makes clear that there were numerous things wrong with the ALJ’s analysis. If those errors had been pointed out to the Appeals Council, it is very possible that it would have remanded the case, which would have saved two years’ time. If an ALJ denies your Social Security Disability claim, make sure your attorney has the right experience for appealing your claim to the Appeals Council as well as federal court.

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