In a recent social security disability case, a Maryland District Court considered a situation in which the plaintiff, Kowana Chase, had been denied benefits. The plaintiff claimed disability from August 2005 through 2009 and filed her application in 2007. The disability claimed was the result of musculoskeletal connective tissue injury, status post cervical fusion, and obesity. The Commissioner denied her claim, as did the ALJ.
The District Court explained it would find her legally disabled if she was unable to do any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determined physical or mental impairment that could either result in death or could be expected last continuously for at least 12 months.
The first step was to determine if the claimant was doing substantial gainful activity. Someone able to do such activity is not disabled. The second step was to determine whether the plaintiff had a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the requirement of severity and duration. The third step is whether the plaintiff’s impairment equals or meets the listings and meets the duration requirement. If she has this type of impairment, she is disabled. If she doesn’t have an impairment that meets the listings, the court must decide if she retains residual functional capacity to perform relevant work she has performed before. If she can’t, the next step is to see if she can perform any work given her age, work experience, and education. If she can’t perform any other work, she is disabled.
In this case, the ALJ used these five steps. The ALJ found the plaintiff had severe impairments, and at the third step the ALJ found the plaintiff’s impairments didn’t medically equal the severity of the listed impairments. He also found that the plaintiff maintained residual functional capacity to perform light unskilled work. The ALJ found she couldn’t perform her past relevant work, but could adjust to other work, perhaps as a gate guard or a counter clerk. Because of this, the ALJ found she did not have a disability as defined in the Social Security Act.
The plaintiff argued that the District Court should reverse on the basis of new and material evidence, failure to consider all of her impairments, and failure to give her treating physician the right deference. She put forward treatment notes that showed she had depressive disorder and panic disorder that gave rise to a work accident in 2002.
The court explained that a case will be remanded if there is new material evidence and good cause for failure to incorporate that evidence into the record before. The evidence has to be relevant to a disability determination, the evidence must be such that the Commissioner’s decision might reasonably have been different if the new evidence been in front of him or her before, there had to be good cause for failure to submit the evidence before, and there had to be a general demonstration about the nature of the evidence.
The plaintiff had made the showing that the new evidence from her treating physician was entitled to deference. The records weren’t available at the time of the earlier decision. On that basis, the court believed the case should be remanded. Moreover, the ALJ had failed to address the claimant’s headaches, which were listed as a severe impairment supported by documentation. The court affirmed other aspects of the ALJ’s decision but remanded on those two grounds.
If you suffer from a disability and are unable to work, you should consult with an experienced Maryland SSDI attorney as soon as possible. Contact the attorneys of Steinhardt, Siskind and Associates at (866) 902-4111 or via our online form.
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