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St. Louis Social Security Disability Lawyer Notes Decision Requiring That Judge May Not Substitute His Opinion For A Doctor

June 2, 2009

This is an interesting case which states that Social Security Judges cannot act as doctors in denying a social security claim.FREE CONSULTATION (314) 310-8373

Social Security: Denial Of Benefits – Mental Disability – Medical Noncompliance

By Stephanie Maniscalco

Pate-Fires v. Astrue (MLW No. 59069/Case No. 07-3561 – 22 pages) (U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, Bye, J.)

Where an administrative law judge denied the application for disability benefits and supplemental security income of a claimant with mental impairments based on his determination that she could perform her past relevant work as a retail store stocker, the medical evidence proved that the claimant suffered from a severe mental impairment and could not engage in gainful employment, and the ALJ’s contrary conclusion was not supported by substantial evidence because the claimant’s treating doctor found her to be disabled and the ALJ improperly disregarded the doctor’s opinion based on his own conclusion that the claimant’s drug use and refusal to take her medicine precluded a finding of disability.Judgment is reversed and remanded.

‘Playing doctor’

“The ALJ’s conclusion Pate-Fires’s medical noncompliance was not justifiable and precludes a finding of disability is not supported by substantial evidence. Further, the ALJ’s determination Pate-Fires’s medical noncompliance is attributable solely to free will is tantamount to the ALJ ‘playing doctor,’ a practice forbidden by law.”

Improper basis

Dissenting opinion by Shepherd, J.: “I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that remand for an immediate award of benefits is the appropriate remedy in this case. At step four of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ decided that Pate-Fires retained the residual functional capacity to perform her past relevant work ‘The majority finds that the ALJ reached this step-four conclusion in error. Specifically, the ALJ relied on an improper basis to reject Dr. Erby’s opinion, and substantial evidence did not support the ALJ’s conclusion that Pate-Fires’s medical noncompliance precluded a finding of disability’ To the extent the majority’s decision to reverse the judgment of the district court is based on these errors in the ALJ’s step-four analysis, I concur.”

Judgment is reversed and remanded.y claim.