Federal Appeals Court Sends Case Back to Social Security

Joe Di Bartolomeo
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Joe Di Bartolomeo is a top rated personal injury lawyer helping Oregon and Washington families
Posted on Jul 06, 2015

In this case, a Federal Appeals Court found that the Social Security Administration Administrative Law Judge did not have enough evidence to find that there were significant numbers of jobs that the Claimant could perform within his limits.

When someone applies for Social Security Disability, there are several questions that must be resolved at hearing, and an Administrative Law Judge (also called an "ALJ") must develop the evidence to resolve these many questions. If the Judge finds that a Claimant is no longer able to go back to his prior work, the ALJ will ask a Vocational Expert whether there are other jobs that a person with the Claimant's physical limitations can perform, and whether those jobs exist in significant numbers.  Typically, the Vocational Expert will rely upon his or her professional experience to determine the number of jobs that exist in the regional and national economy within the Claimant's physical or mental limitations.

In this particular case, the Vocational Expert testified that there were significant numbers of jobs that Claimant could perform within his limitations, but provided numbers only from the local economy. The Vocational Expert relied upon the Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which is a government publication that is several years old, and considered obsolete. More troubling is the fact that this publication does not contain any data indicating the numbers of jobs that are available in any state or the nation as a whole.

The Federal Court found that the ALJ cannot make a finding that there were jobs available when the Vocational Expert was relying upon incomplete and outdated information. As a result, the court ordered that the case be sent back to the Administrative Law Judge for further testimony about whether there were actually sufficient jobs that the Claimant could perform within his limitations.

When reviewing the evidence in a case, an Administrative Law Judge must base his or her decision on valid information. We have extensive experience identifying these issues, and can  determine whether a makes sense to argue that a Judge's findings at the hearings level  are based on good information, or not. In many cases, we will appeal Unfavorable Decisions issued in Portland, Oregon, and other local hearings offices to the Appeals Council, and make these very same arguments.

If you are approaching a hearing, not sure whether you can spot all of the issues that may be subject to an appeal, call us at 503-325-8600. We can review your case, and let you know where you stand.