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Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Case – Treating Source Rule

MPLP Winter 2008 Public Benefits Section Newsletter Article

                Issue 35, Winter 2008

Social Security News

QDD Going Nationwide!

There has been some progress in reducing the backlog of social security cases in 2007.  The current waiting period for a hearing averaged 17 months.  The average administrative law judge (ALJ) has 693 cases pending.  One early success is the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) tool. Experience in the Boston Region demonstrates the effectiveness of the QDD process. QDD uses automated tools to screen cases, and allows the Social Security Administration (SSA) to fast-track cases that are most likely to be allowed. To date, the State Disability Determination Services (DDSs) in the Boston Region have decided 97 percent of these cases within 21 days and they have an average decision time of 11 days. About 85 percent of these cases have been allowed during the initial review, and more have been allowed with additional documentation.

SSA plans to accelerate the implementation of the QDD process across the country. On September 6, a final rule was published to expand QDD nationwide (Amendments to the Quick Disability Determination Process, NPRM, Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 172, p. 51173, Docket No. SSA 2007-0032, RIN 0960-AG47).

 

Favorable Sixth Circuit Case

Rogers v. Commissioner, 486 F.3d 234 (6th Cir. 2007).  This case talks about the treating source rule, fibromyalgia, credibility, severe impairment analysis and the pain issue.  The law states that if an ALJ chooses not to follow the medical opinion of the claimant’s treating physician (or other source), he must state with specificity the reason for doing so.  Too often, ALJ’s completely ignore the treating source, not only discounting it but failing to mention it at all in the opinion.  In this case, the Sixth Circuit noted that there were more than 500 pages of medical evidence by two treating doctors.  The ALJ failed to discuss this evidence.  There is also a good discussion of Activities of Daily Living (ADL), which the ALJ characterized as the claimant as being fairly active and therefore able to work.  The court found that these minimal daily functions were not the same as being able to perform substantial gainful activity.

Thanks to Lewis Seward for pointing this case out, and to the Ohio legal aid attorney who litigated it – Cherie Howard, Northeast Ohio Legal Services, Youngstown, Ohio.

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