Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income to plaintiff. The court held that the ALJ properly weighed the opinions of medical professionals, including a physician's assistant, and gave partial weight to the opinion of a certain medical expert. The court also held that sufficient evidence in the record supported the ALJ's decision, including clinical notes that plaintiff lost weight from moving around so much, left a clinical appointment with a brisk walk and no cane, and stated he was doing well after a total hip replacement. Finally, the court held that a hypothetical question given to the vocational expert captured the concrete consequences of plaintiff's impairments, and the court need not consider plaintiff's Appointments Clause challenge. View "Hilliard v. Saul" on Justia Law

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In this case requiring the Supreme Court to determine the scope of the authority of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to recoup payments made to Medicaid service providers the Supreme Court held that DHS does not have the authority to enforce its recoupment policy. Plaintiffs, Kathleen Papa and Professional Homecare Providers, Inc. (collectively, PHP), challenged DHS's recoupment policy as it had been enforced against PHP nurses to recover payments made for services they provided to Medicaid patients. PHP claimed that DHS recoups payments nurses earned and received for their Medicaid services because the nurses' supporting records contained documentation shortcomings. The Supreme Court held (1) DHS may recoup Medicaid payments from service providers only in cases where DHS cannot verify certain facts; and (2) DHS's recoupment policy exceeds its authority. View "Papa v. Wisconsin Department of Health Services" on Justia Law

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Hargett, born in 1965, has a high-school education and previously worked as a semi-truck driver, municipal worker, maintenance mechanic, and industrial cleaner. He last worked in March 2015. Hargett applied for disability insurance benefits; he had high blood pressure, type-two diabetes, curvature of the spine, and COPD. Hargett’s primary care physician, Lucardie, referred Hargett to a physical therapist for a functional capacity evaluation (FCE), which indicated that Hargett had a maximum lifting capacity of 35 pounds and maximum carrying capacity of 20 pounds--the “medium strength” category-- but that Hargett could continuously stand for no more than five minutes; could continuously walk for no more than 0.1 miles; could never balance while standing, crouching, or walking; and could never crouch, stoop, or crawl. Lucardie reviewed and signed the FCE. An ALJ denied Hargett’s claim, finding that Hargett retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work. The ALJ gave only “partial weight” to the FCE, discounting its indication that Hargett’s ability to stand or walk did not meet any standard for work activity. The Sixth Circuit vacated. The ALJ should have considered the FCE as a treating-source opinion, which, in 2015, had to be given controlling weight if “well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques” and “not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence.” The error was not harmless. View "Hargett v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a petition for review of the Commissioner's denial of plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The court held that, although the record provides ample support for determinations regarding the severity and limiting effect of most of plaintiff's impairments, further development is required as to the functional limitations on walking and standing. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Noerper v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district court that non-homestead life estates should not be included in Marvin Schmalz's assets, holding that the term "individual" in Minn. Stat. 256B.056, subd. 4a applies only to the applicant for medical assistance. Esther Schmalz was living at a long-term-care facility when she submitted an application for medical assistance for long-term-care benefits. As part of the assessment of her husband Marvin's assets, Renville County Human Services (RCHS) included Marvin's portion of several non-homestead life estate interests that he and Esther owned. Esther appealed, arguing that the life estates should not be included in the total amount of assets that Marvin may retain. The human services judge concluded that RCHS properly denied Esther's application for medical assistance based on the inclusion of the life estate assets owned by Marvin. The Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Human Services adopted the human services judge's recommendation. The district court concluded that the non-homestead life estates should not be included in Marvin's assets, ruling that the term "individual" in section 256B.056, subd. 4a included Marvin. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that an "individual" in the statute refers to the medical assistance applicant and not a community spouse. View "In re Schmalz" on Justia Law

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In July 2010, L.M. was born at full-term and developed normally for six months. In February 2011, L.M. received childhood vaccines, including the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccination. By that evening, L.M. had a fever, was lethargic, had poor muscle tone, and would not eat., Any disturbance caused L.M. to scream. L.M. began to have several seizures a day. At seven years of age, L.M. could crawl and walk with the assistance of a walker. She had a poorly coordinated grasp, suffered cortical visual impairments, and was nonverbal, though she could use a few signs to express ideas such as “yes,” and “no.” Testing revealed that L.M. had a genetic mutation. In a claim under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, L.M. alleged that the vaccinations administered to L.M. in February 2011, significantly aggravated L.M.’s pre-existing condition under two alternative theories. The Special Master denied the petition, finding that L.M.’s genetic mutation was “the most compelling explanation for her predisposition to develop a seizure disorder.” The Federal Circuit affirmed the denial of an “on-table” claim, finding no support for an argument that most encephalopathies do not become acute until after vaccination. The court vacated and remanded the denial of an “off-table” claim, which requires determining whether the child’s receipt of vaccinations significantly aggravated her seizure disorder in the face of an underlying genetic mutation. View "Sharpe v. Secretary of Health and Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the denial of social security disability benefits to plaintiff. The court rejected plaintiff's claim that the ALJ erred in finding that plaintiff was not disabled because the ALJ failed to appropriately consider the VA's determination that plaintiff was unable to work due to a disability and thus entitled to veterans' benefits. Rather, the court held that the ALJ's decisions demonstrates that he considered the VA's determination. The court also held that substantial evidence, including recent medical records that postdate the VA's decision, supported the ALJ's rejection of the VA's disability decision as determinative of whether plaintiff was disabled for Social Security purposes. View "Noble v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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In this class action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the common pleas court's decision to certify the class, holding that the common pleas court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the class action for the named and prospective class plaintiffs whose claims for recovery fell within the express language of Ohio Rev. Code 5160.37. The class action sought a declaratory judgment that former Ohio Rev. Code 5101.58 relating to Medicaid reimbursements is unconstitutional. The action further sought to recover all sums paid to the Ohio Department of Medicaid (Department) under section 5101.58. Plaintiff moved to certify as a class all persons who paid any amount to the Department pursuant to the statute from April 6, 2007 to the present. The trial court certified the class. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 5160.37 now provides the sole remedy for Medicaid program participants to recover excessive reimbursement payments made to the Department on or after September 29, 2007; and (2) therefore, the common pleas court lacked jurisdiction over the claims asserted by Plaintiffs. View "Pivonka v. Corcoran" on Justia Law

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Daugherty, an ALJ hearing disability-benefits applications for the Social Security Administration, took bribes. Conn, who represented many claimants, paid Daugherty $400 per favorable decision; Conn received $5,000 or more per case out of the benefits that Daugherty awarded. Four physicians, including Huffnagle, submitted evaluations to support Daugherty’s decisions, even if the applicant failed to appear for examination. Conn and Daugherty pleaded guilty to federal felonies. One of the physicians was convicted. Huffnagle died. The total cost of benefits granted by Daugherty exceeds $500 million. Following an investigation, a notice under 42 U.S.C. 1320a–8(l), set in motion a process for redetermination of the benefits awarded in connection with the scheme. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 405(g), 1383(c)(3), Jaxson claimed that the ALJ who presided over his redetermination should have considered Huffnagle’s report but declined to do so only because an internal claims-processing manual and ruling say that an ALJ cannot accept evidence that the Inspector General found is likely a product of fraud. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a ruling in favor of Jaxson. Jaxson may have a hard time persuading an ALJ that there is not even “reason to believe” that Huffnagle’s report is fraudulent but he is entitled to try; 42 U.S.C. 405(b)(1), requires a “reasonable notice and opportunity for a hearing”, and “hearing” means a procedure at which both sides can present views on potentially dispositive matters. View "Jaxson v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs each brought an action asserting that the ALJ who denied their application for benefits was not properly appointed in accordance with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court properly declined to consider the issue and affirmed the judgments. In these cases, none of the claimants raised the issue during the proceedings before the Social Security Administration and thus the district court properly concluded that they waived their argument. The court rejected plaintiffs' claims that their constitutional claims need not be exhausted and that exhaustion of this particular constitutional challenge would have been futile. The court further explained that this is not one of the rare situations in which a federal court should consider an issue that was not presented to the agency. View "Davis v. Saul" on Justia Law