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Law School Case Brief

Johnson-Winborn v. Apfel - 106 F. Supp. 2d 1144 (D. Kan. 2000)

Rule:

S.S.R. 96-6p requires an administrative law judge (ALJ) to treat the fact findings of a state agency reviewing physician as non-examining expert opinion. Although the opinions do not have to be accepted by the ALJ, the ALJ cannot simply ignore them. 

Facts:

Plaintiff filed an application for social security disability benefits with defendant Commissioner of Social Security. An administrative law judge (ALJ) made various findings. Defendant, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. § 405(g), requested the court to reverse and remand the case back to defendant in order to correct deficiencies in the ALJ's decision. 

Issue:

Should the case be reversed and remanded?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The court granted defendant's motion because the ALJ did not explain his findings regarding the severity of plaintiff's mental impairment as required by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520a(c)(4), 416.920a(c)(4), and because it was unclear whether the ALJ incorporated the psychiatric review technique form, the case was appropriate for remand. Also, the ALJ's reliance on the medical guidelines was improper as vocational expert testimony was necessary to determine whether sufficient jobs existed within plaintiff's residual functional capacity. Finally, because the ALJ failed to discuss the reviewing physicians' opinions regarding plaintiff's addiction to prescription drugs, this case was appropriate for reversal and remand.

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