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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease

The Administrative Law Judge found that the claimant’s severe impairments were “osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, coronary artery disease, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), borderline intellectual functioning, and obesity . . . .”  The ALJ found, nontheless, that the claimant could continue to work as a cleaner and presser.

On appeal the claimant argued that the ALJ erred by failing to properly weigh the opinions of two of her treating physicians. The court found that one doctor failed to support his opinion with reference to medical evidence, observations, and physical findings, and thus the ALJ did not err by declining to give the opinion more than “little weight.”

However, the court remanded the case because the ALJ’s assessment of the other doctor’s opinions failed to comply with the rules for evaluating treating physician opinions. The court noted that “the ALJ did not consider whether Dr. Houk’s opinions were ‘well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques’ for purposes of the ‘controlling’ weight analysis” (citations omitted).
The claimant pointed out that objective evidence in support of her doctor’s standing and walking limitations included MRI evidence in October, 2009, and a series of x-rays of plaintiff’s knee and back in September, 2010, and May, 2011.  
The court stated: “In rejecting Dr. Houk’s opinion that plaintiff would be unable to perform the amount of walking and standing required for light work activity, the ALJ failed to explain whether the treating physician’s opinions were well-supported . . . . [footnote omitted].”

“The Court cannot accept the Commissioner’s post-hoc rationalization in support of the ALJ’s decision. Where the ALJ has failed to weigh a treating physician’s opinion in accordance with Social Security’s procedural regulations, the Court cannot excuse the failure even though there may be sufficient evidence in the record supporting the ALJ’s decision. . . .”

“In the absence of any explanation by the ALJ for his decision to give Dr. Houk’s opinions little weight the Court is unable to meaningfully review the ALJ’s decision or conclude that the ALJ gave ‘good reasons’ for the weight assigned to Dr. Houk’s opinions[footnote omitted]. . . .”

Zanders v. Commissioner of Social Security, No. 1:13-cv-137 (D. S.D. Ohio, W. Div., Jan. 23, 2014).
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Courts can and should reverse (or remand) ALJ decisions which are not supported by substantial evidence.  Here, the court found that the ALJ’s failure to give reasons for giving little weight to the doctor’s opinions was not “harmless error.”

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