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Judges order SSA to determine if father is entitled to daughter’s disability benefits

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday sent a case back to the Social Security Administration after finding an administrative law judge’s decision that a woman was not totally disabled until Nov. 1, 2008, “deeply flawed.”

Pamela Townsend applied for Social Security Disability Insurance in 2003, claiming she had become incapable of full-time employment in May 2002 due to physical and psychiatric elements. She lived with her parents and her father, Gene Williams, testified at two of her hearings as well as Townsend. The two did not testify at a third hearing held on the matter.

In January 2012, the administrative law judge decided that she did not become totally disabled until Nov. 1, 2008. Townsend died several months after the hearing and so Williams appealed the ALJ’s ruling partially adverse to his daughter’s claim. He wanted the date she became totally disabled pushed back to May 1, 2002. If the date she became totally disabled is earlier than June 30, 2006, the date on which Townsend ceased to be covered by SSDI, her father is entitled to his daughter’s disability insurance benefits from that date until the date of her death.

“As we – and other circuits – have emphasized repeatedly in reviewing denials of disability benefits by the Social Security Administration’s administrative law judges, the combined effects of the applicants impairments must be considered, including impairments that considered one by one are not disabling,” Judge Richard Posner wrote in Gene Williams on behalf of Pamela J. Townsend v. Carolyn W. Colvin, acting commissioner of Social Security, 13-3607.

The ALJ made it clear in her decision that she thought Townsend’s “statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her fibromyalgia symptoms … (were) not credible prior to November 1, 2008, to the extent that they are inconsistent with” her being able to work.

The 7th Circuit found the ALJ’s analysis deeply flawed, pointing out that the judge assessed Townsend’s credibility without asking any questions of her and her father even though they both were present at the third hearing.

“The need to hear what Townsend might say concerning her physical ailments was essential because the medical evidence was inconclusive,” Posner wrote.

The doctor on whom the ALJ relied so heavily had not testified that Townsend was exaggerating her physical symptoms, but rather that since they probably had not been caused by fibromyalgia she should have additional medical tests in order to determine the cause.

“The administrative law judge committed the further error … of ignoring the combined effect of Townsend’s ailments on her ability to work. She considered Townsend’s psychiatric problems and found them not to be disabling, and then considered her physical problems and found them not to be disabling either, but she ignored the possibility that the combination was disabling,” Posner wrote.

These errors require reversal and remand to the Social Security Administration for a redetermination of the date on which Townsend became totally disabled and thus eligible for disability insurance benefits.
 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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