Because you are disabled.

File for disability benefits.

Appeal your case.

How you presented your initial application was the best you could do at that time given what you knew and were told.

But, if you were not successful, appeal (1) because you are disabled and (2) because you can improve on your presentation.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bipolar I Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Knee Impairments, High Blood Pressure, Back Pain and Colon Polyps.

The Administrative Law Judge, among other findings, concluded that the claimant could do her past relevant work, relying on the answer to a hypothetical question asked of the vocational expert.  The court agreed with the claimant that the question failed to sufficiently describe the claimant’s residual functional capacity.  The claimant had been evaluated by her treating nurse practitioner in 16 work-related categories, and her abilities were rated as “good” in eight categories and as “fair” in the other eight categories. 

The court stated that the ALJ: “should have individually identified for the vocational expert the categories in which Plaintiff's abilities were characterized as fair and in which categories her abilities were characterized as good. At a bare minimum, the ALJ should have identified for the vocational expert the number of categories in which Plaintiff’s abilities were rated as fair and the number of categories in which her abilities were rated as good. . . . This uncertainty is reflected in the vocational expert’s response that he did not think that Plaintiff would be precluded from performing her past relevant work if limited to the extent articulated in Exhibit 18F. Such a qualified and less than definitive response simply does not constitute substantial evidence that Plaintiff retains the ability to perform her past relevant work as a cashier and laundry worker.”

Secondly, the court found that the ALJ’s reliance on the Grids, 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, was not based on substantial evidence.  It stated:  “the notion that Plaintiff is capable of performing heavy or very heavy work is absurd and enjoys no support in the record. . . . At a minimum, Plaintiff’s long-standing knee impairments would appear to preclude the performance of heavy or very heavy work.”  

The court pointed out that, “The ALJ has also failed to secure or identify reliable evidence that Plaintiff’s nonexertional impairments do not significantly impact her ability to perform work. The grids only take into consideration a claimant’s exertional (i.e., strength) limitations. Accordingly, where a claimant suffers from ‘nonexertional limitations that significantly restrict the range of available work,’ use of the grids alone to make a disability determination is inappropriate.” 

The magistrate judge recommended that the case be remanded.


Social Security’s Medical-Vocational rules are displayed in the regulations in a grid format with the outcome of “disabled” or “not disabled” matched against the claimant’s physical residual functional capacity assessment as well as age, education and skills from past relevant work.  The regulations require that if a determination can be made using the “Grids,” it must be so made.

In many cases, age can be the most important variable—hence, it is difficult for younger claimants to be approved and somewhat less difficult for older claimants.

Durtche v. Commissioner of Social Security, Case No. 1:12-CV-1181 (D. W.D. Mich., S. Div., March 12, 2014).

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