Wednesday, March 23, 2011

disability - remand - post-hearing psych. report - duty to consider

Boyd v. Astrue - ED Pa. - March 18, 2011

Remand based on newly introduced evidence is authorized by the sixth sentence of 42U.S.C. § 405(g), which states that a court may remand a case when there is new, material evidence, and there is good cause for its absence from the administrative record. Id.; see also Matthews v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 589, 592 (3d Cir. 2000). Evidence is “new” if it is not “merely cumulative of what is already on the record.” Szubak v. Sec’y of HHS, 745 F.2d 831, 833 (3d Cir. 1984). Evidence is “material” if it is “relevant and probative . . . [and] there is a reasonable possibility that the new evidence would have changed the outcome” of the administrative decision. Id. To be material, the evidencemust also be relevant to the time period considered by theALJ, and not simply demonstrate a later-acquired disability or deterioration of a previously non-disabling condition. Id.

Here, the Magistrate Judge found the post-hearing mental evaluation was new. The ALJ did not order a mental examination to address Boyd’s claims of brain damage and learning disabilities, relying instead on an erroneous interpretation of Boyd’s school records, which the ALJ incorrectly asserted did not include special education classes.
The Magistrate Judge found the mental evaluation was material because it reflects a life-long learning disability which existed during the time period considered by the ALJ, and found there is a reasonable possibility Boyd’s mental disability could qualify Boyd as disabled by meeting or equaling a listed impairment, or could otherwise affect his RFC.
The Magistrate Judge further found Boyd could not have introduced the post-hearing examination report before the ALJ’s denial of benefits, which occurred several months before the examination was conducted. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommended this case be remanded.