Should an ALJ have sought more medical records?

In our last post we discussed the Social Security Disability appeals process and the fact that an ALJ’s credibility determinations are often challenged in the appeals process. Many ALJs will accept that an applicant has serious medical issues but disregard testimony as to the severity of the medical issues that an applicant faces.

We also began to discuss the case of one 51-year-old SSI applicant who suffered an adverse credibility determination from an ALJ. The medical record in that case mostly consisted of information provided by the man’s treating physicians and physicians that the man was referred to at the Veterans Affairs hospital.

The appeals court said that the opinions of the doctors were mixed regarding the severity of the applicant’s condition. Some doctors recommended that the applicant perform no work lest he worsen his medical conditions whereas other physicians recommended that the applicant perform light or sedentary work.

The applicant’s appeal was based on the ALJ’s credibility determination which was linked to the ALJ’s alleged failure to adequately develop the record in this case. The applicant maintained that the ALJ should have requested more explanation from the treating physicians and determined whether he had a VA disability rating.

The court first determined that the ALJ had no duty to request more medical information from the doctors because the record included the vast majority of the applicant’s medical records and the records were not ambiguous.

The court then determined that the ALJ erred in not requesting the VA disability determination. We will discuss the significance of the VA disability determination next week.

Source: United States Court of Appeals, “McLeod v. Astrue,” No. 09-35190; D.C. No. 9:07-CV-52-JCL

By |2019-02-08T20:36:39+00:00January 27th, 2012|SSI Supplemental Security Income|0 Comments