Tuesday, September 13, 2005

disability - treating physicians' opinions - GAF - credibility - etc.

Burley v. Barnhart - ED Pa. September 9, 2005 - diability claim based on mental disorders denied


Opinions of treating professionals - The ALJ accepted the opinions of consultative physicians and medical expert over that of a treating physician and a treating therapist with an M.Ed., not medical degree, and "appropriately explained his reasons for" doing so, including "several specific and substantial justifications for his decision."   The court set out a decent synopsis of Third Circuit law about effect of findings and opinions of treating physician.

Rejectionf of GAF assessment - The court accepted the medical expert's statement that "GAF scores are unreliable, non scientific assessments of overall mental functioning reflecting [claimant's[ symptoms rather than his functioning capacity," citing Howard v. Commissioner, 276 F.3d 234, 241 (6th Cir. 2002) (ALJ's failure to reference GAF score in the RFC does not, standing alone, make the RFC inaccurate.)

credibility -- The court said that "adverse credbility findings are afforded substantial deference so long as the findings are supported by specific cogent reasons.  The reasons must be substantial and bear a legitimate nexus to the finding."

Overall, the court acklowledged that a different conclusion could have been reached on the record, but that the ALJ's decision was supposted by the required substantial evidence.

Donald Marritz, staff attorney
MidPenn Legal Services - Gettysburg