Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) decisions frequently state that whether a Social Security Disability (“SSD”) claimant is disabled “is an issue reserved for the Commissioner.” While that may be a correct recitation of the law, most ALJs apply it incorrectly.
Many ALJs invoke language that the legal determination of disability is reserved exclusively to the Commissioner when they try to circumvent the law that requires an ALJ to choose between medical opinions. In doing so, the ALJ conflates a determination of disability, which is a legal opinion, with a claimant’s functional limitations, which is a medical opinion. The courts have consistently held that while a doctor’s statement that a claimant is disabled is not a medical opinion regarding functional limitations, and is not an opinion on the ultimate issue of legal disability, but rather on the nature and severity of the plaintiff’s impairments.
I represent a 36 year old from Holbrook with severe spine, shoulder and elbow problems that worked as a carpenter, whose SSD application was approved today by ALJ Berkowitz. One of the claimant’s doctors stated that the claimant was disabled, and provided functional limitations that precluded full time work. The ALJ distinguished between the two, and noted that while the disability statement was an issue reserved to the Commissioner, the doctor’s less than sedentary functional assessment was not.
If you are thinking about applying for disability, you should retain an attorney who specialized in disability. I have over 25 years of disability experience. Please call my office for a free phone consultation. We have offices conveniently located on Long Island in both Nassau and Suffolk counties.Previous Next
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