MO: ALJ Rules RN Not Eligible for SS Disability: AIJ `Failure to Consult Vocational Expert' Not Fatal.CASE FACTS: Rita Hogan, a registered nurse, was last employed as a general duty nurse. Nurse Hogan filed a claim for disability insurance benefits on February 3, 1997, alleging that she had become disabled on January 8, 1996. She alleged that her disability was the result of a variety of impairments, primarily consisting of Cushing's Syndrome Cushing's Syndrome Definition
Cushing's syndrome is a relatively rare endocrine (hormonal) disorder resulting from excessive exposure to the hormone cortisol. due to a benign adrenal gland adrenal gland (ədrēn`əl) or suprarenal gland (sprərēn`əl), endocrine gland (see endocrine system) about 2 in. (5. tumor and fibromyalgia fibromyalgia
Chronic syndrome that is characterized by musculoskeletal pain, often at multiple sites. The cause is unknown. A significant number of persons with fibromyalgia also have mental disorders, especially depression. and also including non-insulin dependent diabetes, hypertension, mitral valve prolapse Mitral Valve Prolapse Definition
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a ballooning of the support structures of the mitral heart valve into the left upper collection chamber of the heart. , post-menopausal hormonal replacement, slight depression, and a back injury that required surgery. The Social Security Administration denied the nurse's application initially and again on reconsideration. Nurse Hogan then requested and received a hearing before an administrative law judge administrative law judge n. a professional hearing officer who works for the government to preside over hearings and appeals involving governmental agencies. They are generally experienced in the particular subject matter of the agency involved or of several agencies. (AL J). The ALJ ALJ Administrative Law Judge
ALJ Association for Legal Justice (Northern Ireland) found that Nurse Hogan was not entitled to disability benefits; however, he failed to consult a vocational expert A Vocational expert is an expert in the areas of vocational rehabilitation, vocational and earning capacity, lost earnings, cost of replacement labor and lost ability/time in preforming household services. before making that determination. Nurse Hogan appealed.
COURT'S OPINION: The United States Court of Appeals The United States courts of appeals (or circuit courts) are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal court system. A court of appeals decides appeals from the district courts within its federal judicial circuit, and in some instances from other , Eighth Circuit, affirmed the judgment of the ALJ. The court concluded that the ALJ's determination of the extent of the nurse's disability was supported by substantial evidence. Consequently, the court concluded that no vocational expert was required in this case. The court noted that its role was to determine whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable person could find it adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion. The court observed that an ALJ's failure to consider or discuss a treating physician's opinion that a claimant is disabled is not error when the record "contains no contradictory medical opinion." A treating physician's opinion is due "controlling weight" if that opinion is "well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the record." The nurse's condition was repeatedly described in her own physician's notes as "mild." Records from the nurse's other physicians indicated that her condition was "being controlled by medication." The weight of the medical evidence was more in keeping with the restrictions described by a consulting physician (Med.) a physician who consults with the attending practitioner regarding any case of disease.
See also: Consulting . The court held that the ALJ did not err in holding that Nurse Hogan was not eligible for disability benefits. The court rejected the nurse's claim that the AlJ's failure to consult a vocational expert was error. The ALJ found the nurse "less than credible." Hogan v. Apfel, No. 001515 (8th Cir. 02/12/01) F.3d - MO
Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for nearly 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Providence, R.I., firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Reagan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers and Marquis Who's Who in American Law.