Allman v. Colvin, a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, involved a claimant who alleged he was unable to work due to having a shunt in his brain, back pain, depression, anxiety, severe headaches and spina bifida.
During a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), it was determined that he had a residual functioning capacity (RFC) allowing him to perform many different jobs in the national economy, and the judge denied his application for disability benefits. ALJs use an archaic index of jobs known as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) that was largely drafted during the 1970s. This book has a bunch of odd sounding job titles that are supposedly available at some place in the United States at any giving time. This is opposed to finding job listings in the local economy, where the claimant is actually looking for employment. No surprisingly, many disabled Americans do not want to leave their families and travel to another state for the opportunity to work a low wage job while being disabled. However, this is exactly what ALJs often decide they should do.
The problem is especially worse for claimants who are not represented by an experienced Social Security disability benefits attorney in the greater Boston area. The reason for this is the system is designed to be exceedingly difficult for unrepresented claimants. This way, the ALJ and can use the lack of procedural knowledge and the seeming knowledge of a vocational expert (VE) to deny a claimant benefits without much regard to the merits of a particular claim.
Once ALJ denied claimant’s application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, he filed an appeal. On appeal, the court looked at how ALJ used the five-part test in determining whether claimant was entitled to disability benefits. In this case, step two was were ALJ determined claimant’s headaches were not severe enough to warrant a finding of disability. The court also found that ALJ did not give much weight to the opinion of claimant’s treating doctor who made the original diagnosis of his various medical conditions.
On his first appeal, the Unites States District Court determined that claimant was not disabled to a point where he could not work and affirmed ALJ’s denial of benefits. While every case if different, and you should speak with an experienced Boston SSDI appeals attorney about the facts or your particular situation, it is not uncommon for the district court to agree with an ALJ, and often an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals is necessary.
On further appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit determined that lower court had not erred in making its finding that a denial of benefits was appropriate. The reason for this was that the ALJ had, in their view, given sufficient weight to the opinion of claimant’s treating physicians. While this is an unfortunate result for claimant, not every circuit is as favorable to claimant’s legitimate need for benefits, compared to other more claimant-friendly jurisdictions. Again, this is something you discuss with your disability attorney as to how the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit would likely respond to your appeal of a denial of benefits.
If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefits in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.
Allman v. Colvin, February 23, 2016, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
More Blog Entries:
Social Security Disability Claims Process, Jan. 23, 2015, Boston Social Security Disability Insurance Lawyer Blog