Monday, December 14, 2015

disability - remand - ALJ failure to cite/discuss relevant evidence - GAF scores


Serrano v. Colvin – ED Pa. – December 9, 2015


The court upheld that magistrate’s conclusion that the  ALJ’s failure to cite to Serrano’s GAF scores warranted remand.


GAF scores assess an individual’s “psychological, social, and occupational functioning on a hypothetical continuum of mental health-illness.” Boston v. Chater, No. CIV.A. 94-5781,

1995 WL 708552, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 28, 1995) (quoting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ofMental Disorders 32 (4th ed. 1994)). “The GAF scale, designed by the American Psychiatric

Association, ranges from 1 to 100, with a score of 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest.” Christian v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. CIV.A. 13-584, 2014 WL 4925032, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 30, 2014) (quoting West v. Astrue, 2010 WL 1659712, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2010)). Thougha GAF score alone does not necessarily indicate an impairment, it constitutes “relevant medicalevidence that ‘must be addressed by an ALJ in making a determination regarding a claimant’s disability.’” Packard v. Astrue, No. CIV.A. 11-7323, 2012 WL 4717890, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 2012) (quoting Colon v. Barnhart, 424 F. Supp.2d 805, 812 (E.D. Pa. 2006)).


At step four in the disability analysis, an ALJ determines whether a claimant has the requisite residual functional capacity to perform her past relevant work. In making this decision,

the ALJ must consider all evidence before her and indicate why she accepts or rejects certain evidence. Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 43, 48 (3d Cir. 1994). Given this requirement, an

argument in favor of remand based on a failure to discuss GAF scores “will fail if, either: (1) the doctors who issued the GAF scores did not “express any opinions regarding [her] specific limitations,” or (2) if the ALJ provided a clear and satisfactory explanation of the basis uponwhich he dismissed the probative weight of the omitted GAF scores. Packard, No. CIV. A. 11-7323, 2012 WL 4717890 at *3.


In her Report, the magistrate judge reviewed the record and concluded that claimant “was assigned a GAF score of 45 on twenty-one separate treatment visits over a period of nearly

two years.” ....The ALJ made reference to only one of the at least twenty-one GAF scores—a GAF score of 50 provided by the agency examiner.  She provided no explanation for her decision to ignore the  others.  The magistrate judge reasoned that, “[t]hough remand may not be necessary where an ALJ fails to discuss one or two GAF scores of 50 or below, the Court finds that there is clear basis for remand where an ALJ ignores twenty-one such scores.”


If the case is old, the link may have become stale and may not work, but you can use the case name, court, and date to find the opinion in another source (e.g., Westlaw, Lexis, Google Scholar)