The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the denial of a man’s request for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration because it found the administrative law judge didn’t adequately explain why the man hadn’t met requirements for a presumptive disability.
Charles Kastner worked as a delivery manager in 2004 when he felt a pop in his neck while unloading a heavy refrigerator. His pain increased as the days went on. In addition to this incident, 16 years earlier Kastner had an workplace accident where he fell from a safety ladder which broke while he was standing on it.
Kastner visited several doctors for his pain and mobility issues. He had two surgeries to remove a herniated cervical disc. By March 2007, Kastner’s neuropathic pain had returned and he was referred for chronic pain management.
He applied for disability insurance benefits in June 2006, claiming he couldn’t work due to chronic neck pain. The administrative law judge denied the claim in November 2008, finding Kastner could perform sedentary work. The Appeals Council denied a request for review and the District Court affirmed the ALJ’s decision.
But the 7th Circuit found the ALJ’s decision lacked evidence to support her decision that Kastner’s impairment is considered conclusively disabling. Kastner argued that his condition meets the requirements for disorders of the spine found in the Listing of Impairments. The commissioner for the Social Security Administration advanced several arguments defending the ALJ’s decision, but the agency cites to evidence the ALJ didn’t rely upon, Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote in Charles R. Kastner v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, 11-1166.
“On appeal, the Commissioner may not generate a novel basis for the ALJ’s determination. To permit meaningful review, the ALJ was obligated to explain sufficiently what she meant by ‘limitation of motion of the spine as anticipated by section 1.04A,’” she wrote.
The 7th Circuit sent the case back to the SSA, encouraging the administrative law judge to consider and account for certain medical evidence along with Kastner’s personal statements about his symptoms.