Tuesday, December 06, 2011

disability - remand - treating phys. opinion - ALJ consideration not sufficiently detailed

Bethea v. Astrue - ED Pa. - December 5, 2011

The court affirmed the decision of the magistrate judge, who "properly observed that the ALJ’s evaluation of the medical evidence in this case was ‘not sufficiently detailed to allow for meaningful judicial review.’”

“[T]he medical judgment of a treating physician can be rejected only on the basis of contradictory medical evidence.” Morales v. Apfel, 225 F.3d 310, 317-18 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d)(2) (“If a treating source’s opinion on the issue of the nature and severity of an impairment is well supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in the case, it will receive controlling weight.”). In refusing to credit the testimony of a treating physician, the ALJ must base his decision on “objective medical evidence” and not “solely on his own amorphous impressions, gleaned from the record and from his evaluation of [plaintiff’s] credibility.” Morales, 225 F.3d at 318. The ALJ did not articulate any reasons for rejecting the treating source opinions in this case.

“While the ALJ was not required to review all evidence of record, and could choose to reject [the treating physicians] opinion[s], he was required to ‘explain the weight he has given to obviously probative exhibits.’” Jennings v. Astrue, No. 09-1642, 2009 WL 7387721, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 30, 2009), quoting Cotter, 642 F.2d at 705.

Here, the ALJ placed controlling weight on the assessment of the non-physician state agency disability claims adjudicator. “[T]he medical judgment of a treating physician can be rejected only on the basis of contradictory medical evidence.” Frankenfield v. Bowen, 861 F.2d 405, 408 (3d Cir. 1988). In the absence of any explanation as to why he chose to reject the medical evidence that plaintiff’s treating physicians used to support their determinations, the ALJ may not rely on the opinion of a non-physician. C.f., Bordes, 235 Fed. App’x at 864 (holding that the ALJ’s finding that the claimant suffered from no severe back impairment was not supported by substantial evidence where the ALJ failed to explain the evidence he relied on in rejecting the treating physician’s diagnosis); Eary v. Halter, No. 00-2910, 2001 WL 695045, at *4 (E.D. Pa. June 18, 2001) (finding that the ALJ failed to fulfill his duty where he “failed to explain or support his determination with medical evidence in the record”).

In sum, the ALJ’s decision does not allow the court to “tell if significant probative evidence was not credited or simply ignored.” Bordes, 235 Fed. App’x at 864 (quotation omitted). I find that the ALJ’s reasons for not adopting as controlling the assessments of plaintiff’s treating physicians are not based on substantial evidence and will overrule defendant’s objections.