Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Jose Perez-Gonzalez issued a decision that approved my client’s social security disability (“SSD”) benefits by doing what surprisingly few other ALJ’s do – he rested his decision upon common sense.
I represented a 57 year old former teacher with mental impairments at an SSD hearing, where a psychologist testified as a so-called medical expert (“ME”). The ME stated that the claimant was not disabled, despite the fact that the long time treating psychiatrist stated that the claimant’s condition was so severe, that she met a listing. The ME claimed that the psychiatrist’s opinion was not consistent with his medical notes, which the ME admitted he could not read.
The ALJ rejected the ME’s opinion based upon my cross examination of the ME. I got the ME to admit that treatment providers do not document all symptoms that their patients might have, and that their notes are used to try to jar their memory, and not to serve as documentary evidence for future legal proceedings. The ALJ agreed, and therefore, rejected the ME’s testimony, in favor of the treating psychiatrist’s opinion.
ALJ Perez-Gonzalez’s conclusion, that treatment providers create notes to jar their memory at future medical appointments, and not to serve as documentary evidence, goes beyond common sense. Nonetheless, the majority of the time when an ALJ wants to reject the opinion of a treating doctor, the excuse for doing so is that the opinion is not supported by the treatment notes. Every cross examination of an ME should focus on rebutting the often inevitable assertion that treatment notes fail to support the treating doctor’s opinion.Previous Next
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