Wednesday, August 06, 2008

disability - misc. issues

Burton v. Astrue - ED Pa. - July24, 2008

ALJ decision erroneous and case remanded.

* ALJ failed to consider evidence subsequent to date last insured (DLI) - “Retrospective diagnosis of an impairment, even if uncorroborated by contemporaneous medical records, but corroborated by lay evidence relating back to the claimed period of disability can support a finding of past impairment.” Newell v. Comm’r, 347 F.3d 541, 547 (3d Cir. 2003)...As the Third Circuit wrote in another case, “[T]he lack of contemporaneous medical evidence of an objective nature is not necessarily determinative as to the onset date, and to the extent the ALJ’s decision was based on a legal determination that the onset date of an impairment had to be proved by such medical evidence, it is erroneous.” Kelley v. Barnhart, 138 Fed. App’x 505, 508 (3d Cir. 2005). The court remands this matter for the ALJ to reconsider his treatment of Plaintiff’s medical evidence subsequent to her date last insured

* ALJ used improper measure of severity - The “burden placed on an applicant at step two [of the sequential disability evaluation] is not an exacting one.” McCrea v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 370 F.3d 357, 360 (3d Cir. 2004). Rather, The step-two inquiry is a de minimis screening device to dispose ofgroundless claims. An impairment or combination of impairments can be found “not severe” only if the evidence establishes a slight abnormality or a combination of slight abnormalities which have no more than a minimal effect on an individual’s ability to work. . . Only those claimants with slight abnormalities that do not significantly limit any basic work activity can be denied benefits at step two. If the evidence presented by the claimant presents more than a slight abnormality, the step-two requirement of “severe” is met, and the sequential evaluation process should continue. Reasonable doubts on severity are to be resolved in favor of the claimant. Newell, 347 F.3d at 546 (internal citations and quotations omitted).

* failure to get treatment - The adjudicator must not draw any inferences about an individual’s symptoms and their functional effects from a failure to seek or pursue regular medical treatment without first considering any explanations that the individual may provide, or other information in the case record, that may explain infrequent or irregular medical visits or failure to seek medical treatment. SSR 96-7p

* slowly progressive impairments - “Particularly in the case of slowly progressive impairments, it is not necessary for an impairment to have reached listing severity (i.e., be decided on medical grounds alone) before onset can be established.” SSR 83-20....With slowly progressive impairments, it is sometimes impossible to obtain medical evidence establishing the precise date an impairment became disabling. Determining the proper onset date is particularly difficult, when for example, the alleged onset and the date last worked are far in the past and adequate medical records are not available. In such cases, it will be necessary to infer the onset date from the medical and other evidence that describe the history and symptomatology of the disease process. . . . . . . . How long the disease may be determined to have existed at a disabling level of severity depends on an informed judgment of the facts in the particular case. This judgment, however, must have a legitimate medical basis. At the hearing, the administrative law judge (ALJ) should call on the services of a medical advisor when onset must be inferred.