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7th Circuit finds ALJ’s methodology flawed, orders more proceedings

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found an administrative law judge’s opinion denying a man Social Security disability benefits reflects a “flawed evaluation of the record of evidence,” so it ordered more proceedings on the matter.

Kenneth Owen Scrogham sought the disability benefits when he was 53 years old. He said he had to stop working because he had a variety of health problems, mostly leg and back pain. He claimed a variety of medical conditions, including degenerative discs, hypertension and restless leg syndrome, constituted a qualifying disability.

His application was initially denied, and then denied again by an administrative law judge after a hearing. Scrogham sought judicial review of the ALJ’s decision, which the District Court affirmed. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in the Southern District of Indiana found the ALJ did not err in giving less weight to the opinion of a treating physician than to the opinions of nontreating physicians. She also held the ALJ permissibly found Scrogham not to be credible and the ALJ’s decision was otherwise supported by substantial evidence.

But the 7th Circuit disagreed Wednesday, reversing the District Court’s decision and ordering more proceedings. Judges Kenneth Ripple, Ann Clair Williams and David Hamilton found several flaws in the ALJ’s methodology. The ALJ “impermissibly ignored” a line of evidence demonstrating the progressive nature of Scrogham’s degenerative disc disease and arthritis,
Ripple wrote. It also seems as though the ALJ misapprehended or only partially considered some of the evidence about his daily activities, rehabilitation efforts and physicians’ evaluations.

“This lapse affected both the ALJ’s credibility determination and her residual functional capacity assessment,” Ripple wrote.

“We emphasize, however, that we do not decide here that Mr. Scrogham is entitled to benefits,” he continued. “It may be that he has exaggerated his symptoms or that more in-depth study of his condition would show that he could perform some work. These are issues for the ALJ to decide, using the agency’s expertise.”

The case is Kenneth Owen Scrogham v. Carolyn W. Colvin, acting commissioner of Social Security, 13-3601.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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