Friday, May 30, 2008

disability - severity - remand

Bishop v. Astrue

I agree with the ALJ that there is little, if any, medical evidence supporting the level of disability alleged by plaintiff. I also respect that the ALJ’s credibility determination is entitled to deference.

However, I am bound by Third Circuit law which provides that benefits may be denied at step two of the sequential evaluation only if there are less than slight abnormalities which would have no more than a minimal effect on an individual's ability to work and that step two is designed to screen out only groundless claims.

In this case, resolving any doubt in favor of the applicant, as I must under the law, I find that based upon the record evidence, Bishop’s claim is not groundless and, thus, the ALJ legally erred when he found that Bishop’s trigeminal neuralgia/primary trochlear headache was not a severe impairment. Id. As a result, this case must be remanded to the ALJ to determine whether Bishop is disabled due to her severe impairment of trigeminal neuralgia/primary trochlear headache and other non-severe impairment.

Although due to the ALJ’s legal error this case must be remanded, I hesitate, for based on the record, I find it highly unlikely that Bishop’s impairments are severe enough to preclude all work. See Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 553 (3d Cir. 2005)... ; Fisher v. Bowen, 869 F.2d 1055, 1057 (7th Cir. 1989)....However, it is not my duty to make the ultimate disability determination, as that decision is reserved solely for the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(e)(1). My role is limited to determining whether the decision of the ALJ is legally sufficient and supported by substantial evidence....Therefore, the case must be remanded in order for the ALJ to supplement his findings in a manner consistent with this opinion.