Thursday, May 16, 2013

social security disability - remand - legibility of notes of treating physician

Grice v. Astrue – ED Pa. – May 15, 2013 

Plaintiff, Michael Grice, seeks judicial review of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration’s denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. Grice contends that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in concluding he has the residual functioning capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work.

Specifically, Grice argues that the ALJ erred in (1) failing to credit his treating physician’s opinion that he has manipulative limitations, and (2) relying on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines despite the ALJ’s finding that Grice suffers from both exertional and nonexertional limitations.

As discussed below, it is premature to rule on either of these issues because the ALJ does not appear to have considered the illegible treatment notes of Grice’s treating physician. Accordingly, the Court will GRANT Plaintiff’s motion to remand with an instruction that the ALJ obtain a legible copy of the treatment notes so that the ALJ’s RFC determination can properly take into account all relevant medical evidence.

HAMP - Law Review article - using contract law to enforce HAMP

64 Hastings L.J 904

Arsen Sarapinian

In 2009, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Obama Administration unveiled the Making Home Affordable Program (“MHA”) to slow the foreclosure crisis and stabilize the economy. A key component of the MHA is the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”), a seventy-five billion dollar program designed to incentivize loan servicers to modify loans for certain qualified borrowers. The Treasury estimated that HAMP would permanently modify three to four million mortgages by the end of 2012; however, HAMP has failed to meet its objective.

Under HAMP, if a borrower meets certain criteria, she will be placed on a three-month trial period plan (“TPP”) where she will pay a lowered mortgage payment equal to 31% of her gross monthly income. If the borrower makes this lowered payment for three months and meets other requirements, the servicer should extend a permanent modification with a reduced monthly payment. As written, however, the provision allows servicers to deny permanent modifications even if borrowers successfully meet their reduced mortgage payments.

Recently, borrowers began to bring common law breach of contract claims to enforce the TPP, arguing that the TPP is a binding contract that requires servicers to grant permanent loan modifications. Currently, there is controversy over the validity of the TPP-based breach of contract theory and a split amongst the federal courts. This Note provides an overview of the HAMP application process, examines the controversy and split amongst the federal courts, argues in favor of upholding the theory, and provides recommendations for national legislation.