Sunday, April 10, 2011

ALJ Strauss Rejected Again

This is a follow up to my March 20, 2011 post entitled “ALJ Strauss Reversed Again, which has become a series of posts discussing how the federal courts are continually reversing the Social Security Disability ("SSD") decisions of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Hazel Strauss. The decisions of U.S. district court judges reveal Strauss’ pattern of denying SSD claims by failing to comply with applicable rules and regulations.

Caira v. Astrue, 2011 WL 1326607 (E.D.N.Y. March 31. 2011), is the latest reported decision involving ALJ Strauss. Consistent with Strauss’ pattern of improperly denying SSD claims, in Caira, U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Dearie commented that, “At best, therefore, ‘the ALJ reached a mistaken conclusion.” Judge Dearie seems to imply that Strauss did not reach her erroneous decision as a result of a simple mistake. Judge Dearie stated that Strauss’ rationale for her erroneous decision was a “mystery,” and that she “simply declared, without any analysis, that she gave ‘significant weight’ to the opinion of [the] consulting examiner,” and the State agency’s non-examining doctor. Judge Dearie ruled that Strauss “accepts these doctors’ bald conclusions despite substantial contemporaneous and contradictory evidence in the record.”

Judge Dearie also criticized Strauss’ slanted selectivity. Specifically, Judge Dearie found that Strauss “provided no basis for choosing one account over the other;” failed to incorporate the relevant facts into her analyses; “jumped to conclusions that were not adequately supported by the consultants reports;” and “credited only the sliver of [the treating doctor’s] written opinion which suits a finding that the claimant is not disabled, but ignored the vast majority of the opinion counseling otherwise.” Therefore, Judge Dearie concluded that, “At best, therefore, ‘the ALJ reached a mistaken conclusion.”

Judge Dearie also found that Strauss’ reasons for rejecting the claimant’s credibility in Caira to be defective. Specifically, Judge Dearie found that Strauss’ “contentions are puzzling in light of the extensive documented objective evidence of the claimant’s disability.” Judge Dearie added that Strauss mischaracterized and overstated the claimant’s daily activities, which did not “even minimally” support an ability to work. To the contrary, Judge Dearie determined that, “There is not a hint of evidence in this case of fraud or malingering, and persuasive evidence exists of disability.”

Perhaps Judge Dearie is finally fed up with Strauss’ transparently wrong decisions. With seeming frustration with Strauss’ decision in Ciara, Judge Dearie refused to subject the claimant to another hearing before ALJ Strauss. Using harsh language for a federal district court judge, Judge Dearie held:

The Court will not sanction such a pointless exercise when proper application of the law to the existing record permits a single conclusion: that claimant is disabled and entitled to benefits.

A federal court has now explicitly announced that it is “pointless” to require a claimant to continue through the appeal process for a Strauss decision. At what point does the Social Security Administration have an obligation to pay attention to what the federal courts are saying about Strauss’ decisions? What point is there to wasting judicial and Administration resources by requiring claimants to appeal Judge Strauss’ decisions that follow her pattern of improperly rejecting and discrediting the opinions of treating physicians and claimants’ credibility?

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