ILNews

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

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.
 

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. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  2. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  3. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  4. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  5. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

ADVERTISEMENT