Social Security 2008 - Mastery Exercise No. 3

Due: No later than 11:55 p.m. March 23 (Sunday night)

Remember that this is not a research problem. While you should consult the relevant portions of the Act and Regulations, you are not expected to go outside the course readings, presentations, and discussion on the topics we have covered up to now.

Keep a copy of your submission. I would suggest that you prepare your response in your favorite word processor, save it, and then copy and paste the text into the box below. (But don't forget to add your name.)

The course database should respond to your submission with a confirmation number. In the unlikely event that the system is not functioning, send me an email to report the problem and try a bit later. If the problem persists and the deadline looms send your submission by email.

Your represent a client, Lynette Sandoval, who has been denied disability insurance benefits. Her claimed impairments include: arthritis, high blood pressure, and limited intellectual capacity.

An adverse ALJ decision, following a hearing at which you represented Ms. Sandoval, found the following:

Notwithstanding the last finding, the ALJ went on to use the Grid as a framework and determined that Ms. Sandoval was "not disabled" during the period she met the insured status requirements for DI. The decision cited Grid rule 202.16.

Ms. Sandoval and you have just received the ALJ's negative decision. It is more or less what you expected from this ALJ. Your task now is to prepare a request for Appeals Council review.

The medical evidence you submitted prior to the hearing included importantly the report of a clinical psychologist, Dr. Adam Boraks, who examined Sandoval in September 2006. Dr. Boraks administered a Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale ("WAIS") IQ test which revealed a verbal IQ of 67, a performance IQ of 75, and a full scale IQ of 70. Dr. Boraks noted that Sandoval's higher score on the performance scale was consistent with her limited educational background. Dr. Boraks noted that Ms. Sandoval had significant difficulties with intellectual functioning, finding that she had below-average verbal and non-verbal abilities. Dr. Boraks noted that Ms. Sandoval's attention, concentration, and pace was variable, exacerbated, it seemed, by her arthritis. Dr. Boraks' report noted that Ms. Sandoval would need close supervision, support, and assistance in order to respond appropriately to in a work place.

The file also includes the report of a DDS consulting physician, one Dr. Reddy. Dr. Reddy concluded that Sandoval was moderately limited in: 1) the ability to understand, remember, and follow detailed instructions; 2) the ability to concentrate for an extended period; 3) the ability to interact appropriately with the public and co-workers; and 4) the ability to complete a full workday without an unusual number of rest periods. However, Dr. Reddy expressed the view that Sandoval was capable of working an eight-hour day, where the work consisted of simple one-two tasks, contact with others was infrequent, and supervision was direct and nonconfrontational.

The principal evidence about Sandoval's arthristis and its effects came from the claimant herself. She testified that this condition had become steadily worse throughout the period she cared for her mother and since. It affected her ability to move both her knees, as well as her back. She experienced difficulty climbing stairs, walking any distance, and could only stand for two hours or so before feeling pain. She has taken a variety of anti-inflammatory medicines to deal with the condition.

On the basis of this limited information about the decision and underlying record, what grounds for reversal and remand by the Appeals Council seem to you to be the strongest? In other words what lines of attack on the ALJ's decision suggested by the above summary hold greatest promise? (Explain the top two or three in no more than a paragraph each.)


(2) With additional effort and some expense you are fairly confident you could strengthen the medical evidence of any or all of Ms. Sandoval's claimed complaints. Is there any value in doing so either in terms of further appeal of this claim or a potential second application for DI? (Please respond in no more than two paragraphs.)


Your name:

Note: This and the other three mastery exercises will count significantly toward the "class participation" element of your final grade for the course.