Monday, September 19, 2005

SSI - treating M.D. - credibility - subjective complaints - duty of ALJ to develop record

Rodriguez v. Barnhart - ED Pa. - September ___ 2005
Summary judgment for SSA.  Claimant alleged disability based on "depression and bad nerves." 
Many instances of inconsistency between psychotherapy evidence and psychiatric evidence.  Court upheld ALJ's decision to give little weight to opinion of treating physician (TP), because it was not supported by objective clinical, diagnostic or laboratory findings, but rather by the allegations of the claimant herself.  The TP's opinion was of limited value because it largely relied only on claimant's subjective symptoms, rather than objective evidence, such as a treatment regimen. 
The court also upheld the ALJ's assessment of the claimant's allegations as exaggerated and her credibility as only fair, primarily because activities of daily living -- including being primary caretaker for 6 children --  were inconsistent with her claims of the extent of her disability.   The evidence also showed a "stable psychiatric condition."  Credibility was evaluated under 20 CFR 4161.929 (b), (c) and (e)
The court rejected the argument that, if the treating physician's opinion was inadequate, the ALJ should have sought more information from the TP.  The "ALJ correctly found that there was sufficient evidence in the record to reach a disability determination, which satisfied his duty under the regulations,"  20 CFR 416.912(e).
Donald Marritz, staff attorney
MidPenn Legal Services - Gettysburg