Articles Posted in Public Benefits

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The "credit-as-true rule" permits, but does not require, a direct award of benefits on review but only where the ALJ has not provided sufficient reasoning for rejecting testimony and there are no outstanding issues on which further proceedings in the administrative court would be useful. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to remand for further administrative proceedings in a claimant's action seeking Title II disability insurance benefits. The panel clarified the district court's remand order, instructing the district court to remand to the ALJ consistent with the requirements pursuant to Treichler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 775 F.3d 1090, 1101-02 (9th Cir. 2014), with an open record on the issue of claimant's fatigue related to his capacity to undertake full time employment. On remand, claimant shall be permitted to cross-examine the Commissioner's medical consultants, but only to the extent such cross-examination concerns the issue of claimant's fatigue. View "Leon v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's order affirming the Commissioner's denial of plaintiff's application for social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits. The panel held that the ALJ erred in its assessment by not calling a medical advisor at the hearing; by giving too little weight to the observations of plaintiff's fiancé; and by finding that plaintiff was only partially credible. The panel reversed on these grounds and remanded. In a separately filed memorandum disposition, the panel rejected plaintiff's other challenges and affirmed that portion of the ALJ's decision. View "Diedrich v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order affirming the denial of supplemental security income and disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff suffers from fibromyalgia. In July 2012, the SSA issued Social Security Ruling (SSR) 12-2P, a ruling that establishes that fibromyalgia may be a severe medical impairment for purposes of determining disability, and provided guidelines for the proper evaluation of the disease. The panel held that the ALJ, SSA Appeals Council, and the district court failed to heed the instructions of those rulings, and instead analyzed plaintiff's symptoms and rejected her claim without considering the unique characteristics of fibromyalgia, the principal source of her disability. The panel remanded with instructions for the district court to remand the case to the agency for the calculation and award of benefits. View "Revels v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, holding that plaintiff's contention that the ALJ made two errors at step two of its analysis of disability claims had no merit; all impairments were taken into account both times; any alleged error was harmless and could not be the basis for remand; using the shorthand "personality disorder" did not indicate any error in the ALJ's determination of plaintiff's residual functioning capacity (RFC); Dr. Kenderdine's partial reliance on plaintiff's self-reported symptoms was not a reason to reject his opinion; conflict in the record corroborated the rejection of Dr. Toews' testimony as a basis for rejecting Dr. Kenderdine's opinion; the ALJ did not err in rejecting Dr. Schechter's opinion; plaintiff's complaint that the ALJ only considered Dr. Fisher's opinion in the third section of a submitted form and ignored the first section lacked merit; any error in excluding three jobs identified by the vocational expert (VE) was harmless; but, the vast discrepancy between the VE's job numbers and those tendered by plaintiff, presumably from the same source, was simply too striking to be ignored. Therefore, this inconsistency in the record must be addressed by the ALJ on remand. View "Buck v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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An educational agency does not commit a per se violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1414, by not specifying the anticipated school where special education services will be delivered within a child's individualized education program. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Department in an action brought on behalf of a student under the IDEA. The panel held that the IDEA did not require identification of the anticipated school where special education services would be delivered in light of the student's planned move to a new school district. Therefore, the student was not denied a free appropriate public education because of a purported procedural error. View "Rachel H. v. Department of Education, State of Hawaii" on Justia Law

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A claimant must, at a minimum, raise the issue of the accuracy of the vocational expert's estimates at some point during administrative proceedings to preserve the challenge on appeal in federal district court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits. In this case, the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination was supported by substantial evidence and there was no inconsistency between the opinions of two physicians regarding his capability for interaction with colleagues. Furthermore, plaintiff waived his challenge to the vocational expert's job numbers where he did not suggest that the vocational expert's job estimates might be unreliable at any point during administrative proceedings. View "Shaibi v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision affirming the Commissioner's denial of plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. The panel held that the ALJ committed legal error when she failed to provide legally sufficient reasons to discount the opinions of examining psychologist Dr. Hart, and when she failed to provide germane reasons to discount the opinions of treating nurse practitioner Dr. Sorrell; the ALJ's error in discounting these opinions permeated her hypothetical to the vocational expert regarding the availability of a significant number of jobs in the national economy that plaintiff could perform; and therefore the panel remanded for an award of benefits. View "Popa v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment affirming the ALJ's denial of plaintiff's applications for disability benefits and supplemental security income (SSI). The panel held that the ALJ failed to credit plaintiff's testimony regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of his symptoms to the extent that testimony was "inconsistent with the residual functional capacity assessment [(RFC)]"; this boilerplate language encouraged an inaccurate assessment of a claimant's credibility and also permitted determination of RFCs that were inconsistent with truly credible testimony; the approach taken by the ALJ was inconsistent with the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C 301-1397m, and should not be used in disability decisions; and the ALJ did not give clear and convincing reasons for rejecting plaintiff's symptom testimony. View "Laborin v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits

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The Ninth Circuit held that the Secretary erred in approving a state plan amendment (SPA) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1396(a)(30)(A), without requiring any evidence regarding the extent that such care and services were available to the general population in the geographic area. In this case, the Secretary's approval of the SPA absent considerations of some form of comparative-access data was arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Secretary and remanded. View "Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian v. Price" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of disability insurance benefits, holding that the ALJ failed to reconcile an apparent conflict between the testimony of the vocational expert and the Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). Because the panel could not determine from the record, the DOT, or the panel's common experience whether the jobs in question require both hands, the panel could not say that the ALJ's failure to inquire was harmless. Accordingly, the panel remanded the case to permit the ALJ to follow up with the vocational expert. View "Lamear v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits