Finding that the administrative law judge hearing a southern Indiana woman’s claim for disability insurance benefits made several errors in his consideration of the record, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the Social Security Administration for more proceedings.
In Linda K. Roddy v. Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, 12-1682, Linda Roddy, who had worked full-time as a shift manager at Taco Bell for many years, sought disability benefits after pain prevented her from working and doing basic household chores. She was in a car accident in 1999 that led to her seeking treatment for chronic pain. She went to pain management specialist Dr. Gary Wright for several years and received treatments. When she lost her insurance, she saw Wright less frequently until she stopped seeing him in January 2006. Tests revealed she had degenerative disc disease and inflammation of the joints in the lower back. She cut back hours at work at the suggestion of Wright until she could no longer work at all.
Roddy filed for benefits in November 2007, alleging that her disability began in November 2005. Dr. Larissa Dimitrov evaluated Roddy and found her not to be disabled. The agency denied her claim as did an administrative law judge. He found her not to be disabled using the five-step sequential process in 20 C.F.R. Section 404.1520(4).
The 7th Circuit found the ALJ failed to adequately explain why Wright’s views should be set aside and didn’t give much weight to his opinion. As Roddy’s treating physician, his opinion is entitled to controlling weight if it is supported by other evidence.
The judges also agreed with Roddy that this case must go back to the SSA because the ALJ erred by basing his credibility finding on Roddy’s failure to seek professional treatment for her back after 2006 and her ability to perform household tasks.
The 7th Circuit vacated the District Court judgment that found evidence supported the decision and remanded with instructions to send the case to the SSA for further proceedings.