Friday, June 19, 2009

social security - disability - severity - consideration of evidence - need for finding

Rupard v. Astrue - ED Pa. - June 16, 2009

http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/09D0709P.pdf

Over defendant's objection, the court upheld the magistrates recommenddation “that the case be remanded for further consideration of Plaintiff’s hand impairment” because Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to satisfy the de minimis requirement of step two...."

The ALJ's “scattered references” to Plaintiff’s hand impairment “do not rise to the level of a proper step-two determination” The ALJ’s failure to make a finding concerning the severity of Plaintiff’s hand impairment requires that the case be remanded for further proceedings. There is no question that the ALJ did not expressly consider Plaintiff’s alleged hand impairment at step two. The ALJ made no finding one way or the other concerning Plaintiff’s hand impairment. This silence cannot be interpreted as a determination that Plaintiff’s hand impairment is not “severe,” especially considering the fact that the ALJ expressly determined that Plaintiff’s depression and drug and alcohol abuse are non-severe impairments.

It was incumbent upon the ALJ to expressly consider the hand impairment at step two. We remand this case because the ALJ failed to make any determination about Plaintiff’s hand impairment at step two. Based upon the ALJ’s failure to expressly consider evidence of Plaintiff’s hand impairment, we cannot conclude that the ALJ’s final determination is supported by substantial evidence.

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