In many disability claims brought before the Social Security Administration, the treating physicians' records are reviewed along with the reports from medical doctors hired by the Federal Government. These medical examiners and records reviewers retained by the government often support a denial of the disabled worker's claim.
According to Loudoun County Social Security disability lawyer Doug Landau, the treating doctors' opinion are supposed to be given more weight than a one-time examiner or medical records reviewer, neither of whom have ever spoken with any of the health care providers who have actually cared for the disabled claimant. A recent Washington DC Social Security Disability case illustrates how the Federal Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is supposed to weigh the medical evidence in these claims. The ALJ rejected the opinion of the claimant's treating doctor that his patient could not sit more than 4 hours in an 8 hour day (which would eliminate the ability to do most sedentary work). Under the the treating physician rule, if an ALJ does not give a treating doctor's opinion controlling weight, the judge must always provide a good reason for the weight given.
In Jones v. Astrue,* the DC Federal Circuit Court of Appeals held that,
"Because the ALJ failed to explain his reason for rejecting [the treating doctor's] opinion regarding Jones ability to sit, his decision cannot survive review. On remand, the ALJ is instructed to explain what weight he attaches to the treating physician's conclusions. If he gives the opinion no weight, he must explain his reason for doing so."
The decision denying Social Security benefits was reversed and the case was remanded for consideration of new and material evidence. Adds lawyer Landau, when a Federal disability judge fails to give the proper weight to a long-time treating or family doctor's opinions, and does not have a good reason for doing so, the Appeals Court should reverse the decision and, as happened here, send the case back so that the evidence can be properly weighed. If you or someone you know or care for has become disabled and there are questions about Social Security Disability, e-mail or call us at ABRAMS LANDAU, Ltd. (703-796-9555) at once.
*Jones vs. Astrue, 647 F.#rd 350 (D.C.Cir., 2011)