Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Steininger v. Barnhart - hypo must include all credibly established limitations - ED Pa.

Steininger v. Barnhart -- ED Pa. August 24, 2005

The court remanded the case because the ALJ's hypothetical to the vocation expert was inadequate at step 4 in the disability determination process -- involving determination of ability to do past relevant work.

The court said that "an ALJ hypothetical must include all of claimant's impairments," citing Ramirez v. Barnhart, 372 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2004), and that the claimant's mental impairments were not adequately set out. They didn't even comport with the ALJ's own findings on the issue.

An ALJ need not submit "every impairment alleged by a claimant," but it is "required that 'the hypothetical posed must accurately portray the cliamant's impairments and that the expert must be given an oppportunity to evaluate those impairments as contained in the record'....The ALJ's hypothetical 'must accurately convey to the vocational expert all of a claimant's credibly establish limitations.'" (emphasis in original). The court said that ''great specificity' is required when an ALJ incorporates a claimant's mental or physical limitations into a hypothetical," citing Ramirez, 372 F.3d at 554-5.

The court also said that even though the issue in the case arose at step 4 in the 5-step disability process, the Ramirez analysis was still dispositive, even though that was a step-5 case, since the ALJ's decision relied "exclusively" on the VE's testimony.

Donald Marritz, staff attorney
MidPenn Legal Services - Gettysburg