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ALJ credibility determination not credible, pt.1

When a Social Security Disability applicant has their claim denied, they can appeal that denial. The appeal goes to an Administrative Law Judge, who holds a hearing and reviews the documentary evidence from the claim. The ALJ follows a five-step process to review the claim and then makes his or her determination.

The fourth part of this process requires the ALJ to evaluate whether the worker was unable to perform his or her former occupation. In a recent case, a courtĀ of appeals found that the ALJ made credibility determinations that were incorrect. The ALJ had found conflicting statements made by the worker that suggested she could still perform some work and was not disabled.

The worker had been injured on the job and complained of back pain. Medical exams showed some sacroiliitis and lumbar degenerative disc disease, but at one point it appeared to improve. However, she stated her pain failed to improve.

The woman had tried working four-hour shifts after her injury but complained her pain remained and that there was no improvement. The medical record from her doctors showed no objective medical corroboration for her pain, but her injury was of the type that could produce the pain she claimed she experienced.

The ALJ found that her subjective complaints of pain were not credible. The ALJ based this conclusion on the fact that the woman could perform light household duties and care for her pets.

The court of appeals noted the ALJ was not permitted to make such a conclusion merely because there was not "objective medical corroboration." The court pointed out that the ALJ "must consider subjective complaints of pain if a claimant has established a medically determined impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce the pain."

(Cont.)

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