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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment affirming the ALJ's denial of plaintiff's applications for disability benefits and supplemental security income (SSI). The panel held that the ALJ failed to credit plaintiff's testimony regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of his symptoms to the extent that testimony was "inconsistent with the residual functional capacity assessment [(RFC)]"; this boilerplate language encouraged an inaccurate assessment of a claimant's credibility and also permitted determination of RFCs that were inconsistent with truly credible testimony; the approach taken by the ALJ was inconsistent with the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C 301-1397m, and should not be used in disability decisions; and the ALJ did not give clear and convincing reasons for rejecting plaintiff's symptom testimony. View "Laborin v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Healthcare Providers sought a mandamus order to force the HHS Secretary to clear the administrative appeals backlog and adhere to the Medicare statute's timeframe to complete the process. The district court subsequently determined that mandamus was appropriate and adopted Healthcare Provider's proposed timetable when the Secretary refused to engage with the premise of setting a timetable at all and proposed no alternative targets. The DC Circuit held that, notwithstanding the district court's earnest efforts to make do with what the parties presented, the failure to seriously test the Secretary's assertion of impossibility and to make a concomitant finding of possibility was an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court vacated the mandamus order and the order denying reconsideration, and remanded to the district court to evaluate the merits of the Secretary's claim that unlawful compliance would be impossible. View "American Hospital Assoc. v. Price" on Justia Law

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Hartgrove, a psychiatric hospital, is enrolled with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to receive Medicaid reimbursement. Hartgrove agreed to comply with all federal and state laws and “to be fully liable for the truth, accuracy and completeness of all claims submitted.” Upon receipt of Medicaid reimbursements, Hartgrove is required to certify that the services identified in the billing information were actually provided. On 13 occasions in 2011, adolescent patients suffering from acute mental illness were placed in a group therapy room, rather than patient rooms, sleeping on roll-out beds until patient rooms were available. Hartgrove submitted Medicaid claims for inpatient care for those patients. Bellevue, a Hartgrove nursing counselor until 2014, voluntarily provided the information on which his allegations are based to federal and state authorities, then filed a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729, and the Illinois False Claims Act. Both declined to intervene. The district court dismissed and denied Bellevue’s motion to reconsider in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 “Universal Health” holding that an implied false certification theory is a viable basis for FCA liability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Bellevue’s allegations fall within the FCA's public‐disclosure bar; the information was available in audit reports and letters. View "Bellevue v. Universal Health Services of Hartgrove, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs purchased Illinois nursing homes and obtained new state licenses and federal Medicare provider numbers. Most of the residents in the 10 homes qualify for Medicaid assistance. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (IDHFS) administers Medicaid funds under 42 U.S.C. 1396-1396w-5, reimbursing nursing homes for Medicaid-eligible expenses on a per diem basis. The rate must be calculated annually based on the facility's costs. When ownership of a home changes, state law requires IDHFS to calculate a new rate based on the new owner’s report of costs during at least the first six months of operation. The Medicaid Act requires states to use a public process, with notice and an opportunity to comment, in determining payment rates. The owners allege that IDHFS failed to: recalculate their reimbursement rates; provide an adequate notice-and-comment process; and comply with the state plan, costing them $12 million in unreimbursed costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of a motion to dismiss. Section 1396a(a)(13)(A) confers a right that is presumably enforceable under 42 U.S.C. 1983; it benefits the owners and is not so amorphous that its enforcement would strain judicial competence. While the Eleventh Amendment may bar some of the requested relief, if it appears that owners have been underpaid, that does not deprive the court of jurisdiction over the case as a whole. View "BT Bourbonnais Care, LLC v. Norwood" on Justia Law

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Texas Neighborhood Services received Head Start grant money to provide childcare services to low-income families in Texas. The Department subsequently required Neighborhood Services to repay $1.3 million in federal funds it awarded to staff in the form of performance bonuses. The Department argued that the payments were unreasonable and inadequately documented and the Appeals Board agreed. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's rejection of Neighborhood Services' challenge under the Administrative Procedures Act. In this case, Neighborhood Services failed to produce documentation sufficient to show that it was awarding performances in accordance with the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-122, which explains when and how the government will reimburse federal grantees, including organizations receiving Head Start money, for different types of expenses. View "Texas Neighborhood Services v. HHS" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit held that the Secretary erred in approving a state plan amendment (SPA) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1396(a)(30)(A), without requiring any evidence regarding the extent that such care and services were available to the general population in the geographic area. In this case, the Secretary's approval of the SPA absent considerations of some form of comparative-access data was arbitrary and capricious. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Secretary and remanded. View "Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian v. Price" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of disability insurance benefits, holding that the ALJ failed to reconcile an apparent conflict between the testimony of the vocational expert and the Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). Because the panel could not determine from the record, the DOT, or the panel's common experience whether the jobs in question require both hands, the panel could not say that the ALJ's failure to inquire was harmless. Accordingly, the panel remanded the case to permit the ALJ to follow up with the vocational expert. View "Lamear v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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In several cases consolidated for review, the issue common to all was whether the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services could recover from beneficiaries’ estates an amount equivalent to certain Medicaid benefits paid to, or on behalf of, those beneficiaries during their lifetimes. Pursuant to the Michigan Medicaid estate-recovery program (MMERP), DHHS asserted creditor claims in the amount of those benefits against the estates of four deceased beneficiaries. In each case, the estate prevailed in the probate court and DHHS appealed. The Court of Appeals consolidated the appeals and reversed in part, concluding that DHHS could pursue its claims for amounts paid after MMERP’s July 1, 2011 implementation date, but not for amounts paid between that date and the program’s effective date, July 1, 2010. One estate appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing due process barred DHHS from recovering any amount paid before 2013, when the agency had directly notified the estate’s decedent of MMERP. DHHS applied for leave to appeal in all four cases, arguing that the Court of Appeals had erred in concluding that the agency was not entitled to recover the amounts paid between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011. The Supreme Court concluded DHHS was not barred from pursuing estate recovery for amounts paid after July 1, 2010. View "In re Gorney Estate" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Lanigan injured his back at his job and hurt his neck in a car accident; in 2011 he was diagnosed with diabetes. Since then his medical impairments have been complicated by mental illness. Lanigan applied for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits in 2012 when he was 38 years old. At a hearing, the ALJ asked a vocational expert to assess whether competitive employment would be available to a person: capable of performing low-stress jobs constituting light work if those jobs involve only routine tasks; do not require more than occasional interaction with coworkers or the public; do not involve piece work or a rapid assembly line; is limited to occasional stooping, crouching, kneeling, or crawling; and can be off task up to 10% of the workday in addition to regularly scheduled breaks. The ALJ did not explain the source of the 10% figure. The ALJ found his impairments to be severe but not disabling and denied benefits. The Appeals Council denied review. The district court upheld the ALJ’s decision. The Seventh Circuit remanded for further proceedings because the ALJ misinformed a vocational expert about Lanigan’s residual functional capacity, thus undermining the expert’s testimony that Lanigan could engage in competitive employment. View "Lanigan v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Guerrero applied for workers’ compensation benefits after he was injured in the course of his employment as a construction laborer. He received temporary disability benefits: November 18–December 4, 2005, and January 17–June 15, 2006. His entitlement to permanent disability benefits was contested but settled in December 2014. The resulting agreement provided that Guerrero would receive a lump sum in satisfaction of his employer’s obligation to pay permanent disability benefits, less the amount of permanent disability payments his employer had advanced. Guerrero also applied for benefits from the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF), the state fund that pays workers’ compensation benefits to certain permanently disabled workers. A Workers’ Compensation ALJ ordered the SIBTF to pay, finding that Guerrero’s preexisting condition combined with the subsequent injury left him totally and permanently disabled. The ALJ fixed the beginning date for SIBTF payments as June 16, 2006, the day after temporary disability payments ceased, rejecting SIBTF’s argument that its obligation should not begin until January 26, 2011 (when Guerrero’s injuries were deemed permanent and stationary). The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board denied a petition for review. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that under the controlling statutes, SIBTF benefits commence at the time the employer’s obligation to pay permanent disability benefits begins. View "Baker v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board" on Justia Law