VE’s Make Mistakes: A Recent Example from Outside Tallahassee

From our offices in Tallahassee, FL, our attorneys see mistakes made locally when a client’s claim is evaluated by our local Social Security Administration.  But by keeping abreast with case law developing around the nation, we see various issues that arise throughout the nation and how various issues are treated by the federal courts.  For a specific example of this scenario let us take a look outside of Tallahassee, FL and focus on the Social Security disability case of Kyle Alaura, recently the subject of a scourging appellate opinion from the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Alaura was struck in the head by a metal barstool immediately resulting in a cracked skull and a good chunk of brain removed. He suffered physical and mental limitations as a direct result of the head injury he endured. These limitations include critical brain trauma, seizures, skill-learning/cognitive limitations, hypersensitivity to light, migraines, disorientation, neuropathic pain (chronic pain caused by injury to the nervous system), occipital neuralgia, insomnia, adjustment disorder (a tendency to go to pieces under stress), anxiety disorder, and mood disorder. He also described difficulty holding objects and difficulty standing. Before the bar incident, Mr. Alaura had employment experience as a warehouse worker, landscape laborer, and forklift driver. As written by the Judge, he now lives with his mother for needed assistance as he finds trouble performing and completing daily tasks associated with everyday living. His conditions obviously would hold him back from performing his strenuous past relevant work.  However, when he appealed his denial of SSDI benefits, an administrative law judge ruled that Mr. Alaura was still able to work at a sedentary or light-work job such as hand-packager, addresser, or retail-worker. As our disability attorneys have seen in Tallahassee and beyond, these job titles were suggested by a vocational expert (VE) as jobs that exist in the national and regional economy for someone with a sedentary or light residual functional capacity.

Based on the above vocational analysis, Mr. Alaura was denied the social security disability benefits he applied for because the administrative law judge recognized some of his ailments yet failed to consider the combined effect of his multiple conditions, also failing to explain the significance of many crucial terms and results found in the notes of the doctors whom performed examinations and evaluations of the disabled claimant. As noted by Judge Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit, this alone should have been grounds for further review of Mr. Alaura’s case.  Judge Posner’s opinion levied  hefty criticism of the testimony given by the vocational expert. The expert’s testimony in Mr. Alaura’s case for disability benefits was that the applicant was capable of working a number of job titles based on the description of housework he was able to perform. According to Judge Posner, the VE’s testimony could only be explained through poor reasoning and assumption. The administrative law judge that denied the applicant of the needed benefits made a crucial mistake of inadvertently neglecting to question the credibility and methods the vocational expert used to determine the claimant’s ability to find work. As held by Judge Posner, this was a mistake on the administrative law judge’s part, as he and the VE failed to explain how the claimant’s skills involved in performing the household chores described by the claimant could possibly transcend to the requirements of the suggested job titles given by the VE. Judge Posner continues to explain the apparent reasoning used by the vocational expert as “preposterous,” suggesting the availability of the broad job titles he uses in his testimony proved to be inaccurate. Regarding the final opinion in Mr. Alaura’s case, it was determined that the denial of his application for benefits, and the affirmation of that denial by the district court, were premature. Further proceedings will be held for consideration of Mr. Alaura’s Social Security disability case. As we often tell clients of our disability law firm in Tallahassee, you do not want to suffer years while waiting for an appellate decision.  Unfortunately, if Mr. Alaura wins, he’ll have had to wait a very long time for the benefits he deserves.

These issues don’t occur in every case, but if they do occur, you want an attorney who will do everything they can to spot these issues when they arise, requiring as few appeals as possible. Our Tallahassee social security disability lawyers work in and outside of the courtroom to prevent cases like that of Mr. Alaura. As a team, our law firm strives to consider every detail when preparing for a Social Security hearing.  Call us now for a free case evaluation with a Tallahassee disability attorney.

2017-09-28T19:49:35+00:00