disability - treating physician - pain - credibility - depression
Franklin v. Barnhart - ED Pa. - June 13, 2006
Summary judgment granted to Claimant for closed period of disability of 4+ years to Plaintiff.
inability to do light work -- The ALJ's finding that the claimant (CL) could lift 10 lbs. on sustained basis was not supported by substantial evidence. CL had numerous surgeries to right shoulder but still had significant weakness. Her treating physician of long duration "nowhere" found that she could lift 10 lbs. The ALJ relied on the contrary opinion of a one-time examining physician, whose conclusions were set out only in a check-off box. The court said that the ALJ erred by not giving controlling weight to the treating physician's opinion which reflected expert judgment based on continuing observation over an extended time.
subjective complaints of pain - The ALJ improperly discounted CL's complaint of pain without offering any reasoned basis. The ALJ also erred by not giving "great weight" to the CL's complaints of pain, since they were supported by objective medical evidence. The ALJ decision on pain was not supported by substantial evidence. The record showed "severe pain requiring aggressive pain management."
depression -- ALJ failed to follow Appeals Council prior remand instructions and to give fair consideration to the entire record concerning CL's depression. The ALJ did not consider existing evidence or seek the help of other medical professionals. The ALJ also improperly penalized CL for noting having MH treatment and preferring to stay with her family physician. There was no medical evidence that an MH specialist would have proceeded differently from her family doctor. Moreover, regulations require consideration of a claimant's refusal to see an MH professional, which may have been a result of her depression. And the ALJ again failed to properly credit the opinions of CL's treating physician, improperly preferring, without explanation, the findings in a check-off report of a non-examining state agency psychologist. The 3d Circuit has held such reports to be "weak evidence at best."