Monday, November 3, 2014

Remand Reversal

Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Bruce MacDougall has retired from the Jericho Social Security hearing office. He had denied the Social Security Disability (“SSD”) application of one of my clients with numerous orthopedic and neurologic impairments, by rejecting the opinions of the treating orthopedist and pain management specialist, even though the opinions were objectively supported. 

The Appeals Council agreed that the ALJ failed to provide good reasons for rejecting the treating doctors’ opinions, and remanded. Among other things, the Appeals Council ruled that the ALJ failed to identify any evidence to support his conclusion that the claimant could sit on a “regular and continuing basis” for an 8 hour, five day a week, basis. Consequently, the Appeals Council rejected the ALJ’s decision, ordered a new hearing. 

A new ALJ heard the case on remand. As there was no evidence to contradict the opinions of the treating doctors, a vocational expert (“VE”) was asked if the claimant could work based upon the functional findings of the treating doctors. The VE concluded that the opinions of the treating doctors precluded even sedentary work. Accordingly, the claimant’s SSD application was approved. 

The remand was relatively simple because there was a great deal of work put into the papers submitted to the Appeal Council. I always prepare my appeal to the Appeals Council as if I were submitting a summary judgment brief in federal court. If the Appeals Council rejects the appeal, I incorporate my Appeals Council comments into the federal court complaint. Fortunately, the new ALJ essentially accepted the arguments made to the Appeals Council, which served as the basis for the remand, obviating the need to proceed to federal court.

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