Regulatory (404 .1521) and SSR (85-28, 96-3p, 96-4p) definition of “severe” is interpreted in the 5 th Circuit as a de minimus standard.
Stone v. Heckler , 752 F.2d 1099 (5th Cir. 1985)
An impairment can be considered as not severe only if it is a slight abnormality (having) such minimal effect on the individual that it would not be expected to interfere with the individual’s ability to work, irrespective of age, education or work experience.
“ in the future [we will] assume that an incorrect standard [is used] unless the correct standard is set forth by reference to this opinion or another of the same effect, or by an express statement that the construction we give…is used.”
Types of severity errors
Cite only the regulation, not Stone
Lacy N.D.Tex. (unrepresented claimant)
Charlton N.D.Tex. (6 severe impairments=medium work)
Grant N.D.Tex.(multiple severe mental impairments=unskilled R level 1-2)
Cite Stone but misinterpret it
the Court must look beyond the use of “magic words” and determine whether the ALJ applied the correct severity standard. Hampton v. Bowen 785 F.2d 1308, 1311 (5 th Cir. 1986)
Berry S.D.Tex .(“mild” mental impairment not included at Step 2)
Johnson S.D.Tex. (obesity)
Garcia N.D. Tex. (only actual Step 2 denial in 2010!)
Stone provides no allowance for a minimal interference on a claimant's ability to work. Scroggins v. Astrue, 598 F.Supp.2d 800, 805 (N.D.Tex.2009)
Weston v. Astrue N.D. Tex.
Misstatement of Stone
An impairment is “not severe” when medical and other evidence establish only a slight abnormality or a combination of slight abnormalities that would have no more than a minimal effect on an individual’s ability to work.
Luna N.D.Tex., Foster S.D.Tex.
Find some impairments severe but some not severe
“ either impose no significant limitations on work activity, cleared spontaneously, or are controlled with medical management.” Padalecki v. Astrue, 688 F.Supp.2d 576
Roberson N.D. Tex.
Mental Impairment 20 CFR § 404.1520a
If there is a mental impairment/diagnosis
Rate functional loss in four areas using a 5 point scale
Determine severity & meets/equal
If the mental impairment results in more than a mild functional loss (severe) but does not result in marked or extreme loss (does not meet or equal a listing) then it must be assessed in the RFC.
Work-related mental activities…required…[for] work include… the abilities to:
understand, carry out, and remember instructions; use judgment in making work-related decisions; respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers and work situations; and deal with changes in a routine work setting.
Non-severe impairments too
Williams v. Astrue N.D.Tex.
Failure to Rate Functional Loss
Four broad areas
Activities of daily living
Concentration, persistence and pace
Episodes of decompensation
5 point scale
Melugin W.D.Tex., Biles N.D.Tex. Davila N.D.Tex.
Rating Functional loss but getting the mental RFC wrong
Detailed/Complex instructions does not equal Reasoning Development Level 3
Marked CPP does not equal unskilled work
Moderate social functioning does not equal simple work
Severe PTSD does not equal limited contact with the public
Severe combination=moderate ADLs, social, CPP,=unskilled work with reasoning development at or below 1 or 2.
Grant N.D.Tex (This is actually a Stone denial.)
Blancas W.D. Tex.
Deficits in adaptive functioning :
listing doesn’t require severe or significant
Just because the claimant worked doesn’t mean she doesn’t have deficits
No methodologty exists to evaluate deficits
ALJ focus on ADHD and no analysis of 112.05D
ALJ morphs Step 2/Step 3
IQ not severe because invalid and no evidence of deficits
No medical opinion supports determination that claimant does not equal 12.05
an ALJ must receive expert opinion evidence on the issue of medical equivalence before ruling at Step 3. 96-6p
Janitorial work , drive a car doesn’t necessarily invalidate IQ score.
IQ test creates a rebuttable presumption of a fairly constant IQ throughout the life of a claimant.
Hicks W.D.La., Hamilton N.D.Miss., Gill N.D.Tex., Dyer N.D.Tex.
Audler v. Asture, 501 F.3d 446 (5 th Cir. 2007)
Even though 1.04a elements are not documented on every examination, ALJ failed to properly consider the listing. Williams W.D.La.
Tolliver W.D.La., House N.D.Miss.
Opinion Statements 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527
Factors when weighing medical opinions
Length of the treatment relationship and the frequency of examination
Nature and extent of the treatment relationship
Supportability for the opinion in the medical findings;
Consistency with the record as a whole; and,
Treating Physician Rule
If we find that a treating source's opinion…is well-supported…and is not inconsistent with the other…evidence…we will give it controlling weight.
The opinions may be assigned little or no weight when good cause is shown.
Factors analysis not required if there is controverting treating or examining physician evidence.
Newton v. Apfel , 209 F.3d 448 (5 th .Cir. 2000)
Opinion Statement Errors Medical source statements may actually comprise separate medical opinions….and it may be necessary to decide whether to adopt or not adopt each one. 96-5p
No controlling weight & no factors to TS
Walker S.D.Tex, Kinsel S.D.Tex. Johnson N.D.Tex., Hayes N.D.Tex., Lewis N.D.Tex., Crockett N.D.Tex. Morgan N.D.Tex. , Gadson N.D.Tex.
McLeland, Ross W.D.La., Bobo N.D.Miss., Bagwell N.D.Miss., Rodriguez W.D.Tex.
Testifying expert vs. MSS
“ other sources”
Wright N.D.Miss. (nurse practitioner)
The ALJ is responsible for determining an applicant's residual functional capacity.
However, we conclude that the ALJ's determination was not supported by substantial evidence.
The record includes a vast amount of medical evidence establishing that Ripley has a problem with his back.
What the record does not clearly establish is the effect Ripley's condition had on his ability to work.
The only evidence regarding Ripley's ability to work came from Ripley's own testimony.
Therefore, on remand, we instruct the ALJ to obtain a report from a treating physician regarding the effects of Ripley's back condition upon his ability to work
Ripley v. Chater , 67 F.3dd 552 (5 th Cir. 1995)
ALJ must derive his RFC from medical experts.
Descriptions of medical conditions insufficient to support RFC.
Medical reports not based on personal observation deserve little weight
DE opinion does not support RFC
Cook, Guillot W.D.La.
ALJ rejects MSS and formulates his/her own RFC.
Williams v. Astrure 355 Fed.Appx. 828 (5 th Cir. 2009)
Record lacks “positive statement” from treating source to support RFC GDC W.D.La. (8/10)
Courts have read Williams as requiring a “positive statement” or “positive evidence” from a medical source to support ALJ RFC Brown M.D.La. (11/10)
The impact of Williams
2010 WL 4825391 M.D. La.
Since the time that the decision in Williams was handed down, the Court has found no fewer than fourteen cases which have been remanded or recommended to be remanded to the Commissioner based upon its holding.
The Court was unable to find a single case in which Williams was cited but a remand was not ordered or recommended.
Cases citing Williams in 2010
When is a VE required
Reese W.D. La.
Non-exertional impairment of incontinence (due to prostate cancer)
Pedigo S.D.Tex., Torres S.D.Tex.
Step 2 mental impairment
3 part test explained
Scott WL 2287567 N.D.Miss.
Factual findings required
Decision based on VE testimony but no VE testimony in the record
Perez N.D.Tex., Rivera N.D.Tex.
VE/DOT conflict Wittling down the hypo
Scott W.L. 2243286 N.S.Miss.
VE misstakes: skill level wrong, incorrect DOT number
One job outside of RFC, other two in question when a limitation is left out of the hypothetical question
RFC precludes reaching, jobs require frequent reaching