ILNews

Court: ALJ's ruling had several errors

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Finding an administrative law judge's decision to deny a woman's claim for disability benefits contained several significant errors, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the District Court's affirmation of the denial and remanded the case to the Social Security Administration.

In Debi Villano v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, No. 08-2150, Debi Villano appealed the denial of her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. She claimed she was disabled permanently because she had arthritis in her knees and was obese. The Social Security Administration denied her claims, and the District Court upheld the administrative law judge's decision to deny her claims.

The ALJ performed a five-step analysis looking at how long it had been since Villano last worked, her impairments, and residual functioning capacity to determine she wasn't disabled.

But the ALJ erred when determining Villano's statements that she couldn't sit for six hours a day weren't credible because no medical evidence showed she couldn't. The ALJ failed to acknowledge Villano was obese, and this failure may impact the credibility determination, the Circuit judges determined in the per curium opinion. In addition, the ALJ couldn't discredit a claimant's testimony about pain and limitations solely because there is no objective medical evidence supporting it, the court continued.

The ALJ also erred in determining Villano's residual functioning capacity. The judge had to evaluate all limitations that arise from medically determinable impairments, even those that are not severe, and may not dismiss a line of evidence contrary to the ruling, wrote the court. The ALJ's cursory analysis doesn't give the 7th Circuit Court confidence he had appropriate reasons for rejecting the limitations Villano alleged.

In addition, he erred in determining Villano could perform a significant number of jobs and finding that Villano had acquired the transferable skill of "judgment." Other Circuit Courts have ruled that judgment isn't a skill, and the ALJ erred in concluding Villano had a generalized skill of judgment that was somehow transferable to new jobs in a different field. He also mistakenly ruled Villano could perform more than 15,000 jobs.

"In light of the other problems we have identified, we are not convinced that these errors are harmless," the court wrote.

On remand, the ALJ should give reasoned assessments of Villano's credibility, residual functioning capability, transferable skills, and ability to perform a significant number of jobs.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

ADVERTISEMENT