disability - duty of ALJ to develop record - pro se claimant - mental health issues
Although the Third Circuit has declined to “say that an [ALJ] mustsearch out all the relevant evidence which might be available,” Hess v. Sec’y of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 497 F.2d 837, 840 (3d Cir. 1974), in the circumstances presented here [where the claimant had a mental impairment] the ALJ should have obtained medical records from plaintiff’s treating sources as part of his obligation to help the pro se plaintiff develop the administrative record. See Reefer, 326 F.3d at 380 (stroke pro se claimant); Isaac v. Astrue, No. 08-1661, 2009 WL 1492277, at *13 (W.D. Pa. May 28, 2009); Sloss v. Astrue, No. 07-344, 2008 WL 2355853, at *2 (W.D. Pa. June 9, 2008)
In addition to the heightened duty of care an ALJ owes when the claimant is unrepresented, the ALJ is also obliged, under the applicable regulations, to ensure that the claimant’s complete medical history is developed for at least the twelve months preceding the month in which the claimant filed his application. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(d), 416.912 (d); see also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(B)
While the ALJ’s failure to develop the record musthave prejudiced the claimant in order for remand to be appropriate, see Livingston, 614 F.3d at 345, the Third Circuit has not required the claimant to produce the very records to be considered in order to show prejudice, see Reefer, 326 F.3d at 380...; Dobrowolsky, 606 F.2d at 407-08...; Jozefick v. Shalala, 854 F. Supp. 342, 349 (M.D. Pa. 1994) (noting that the Third Circuit has remanded cases “in order to more fully develop the record without requiring the claimant to make a specific proffer of the evidence that would be presented to the ALJ on remand”). Rather, remand is appropriate when the ALJ “has failed to exercise his authority to attempt to fill significant evidentiary gaps that are material to the disability determination.” Id.