Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff appeals the district court's order affirming the ALJ's denial of his application for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1383(c). Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred by ruling that he could perform a job with level 3 reasoning after finding that his residual functional capacity limited him to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, and by basing the number of available jobs on unreliable vocational expert testimony.The Eleventh Circuit joined the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits and held that there is an apparent conflict between a limitation to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks and the demands of level 3 reasoning. Because the ALJ did not address that apparent conflict—as required by precedent—and because the court cannot say that the error was harmless, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Viverette v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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About 50 businesses that offer live adult entertainment (nude or nearly nude dancing) sought loans under the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program enacted to address the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Congress excluded plaintiffs and other categories of businesses from the second round of the Program, 15 U.S.C. 636(a)(37)(A)(iv)(III)(aa), incorporating 13 C.F.R. 120.110. Plaintiffs asserted that their exclusion violated their rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.The district court issued a preliminary injunction, prohibiting the Small Business Administration (SBA) from denying the plaintiffs eligibility for the loan program based on the statutory exclusion. The Seventh Circuit granted the government’s stay of the preliminary injunction and expedited briefing on the merits of the appeal. The SBA satisfied the demanding standard for a stay of an injunction pending appeal, having shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits. Congress is not trying to regulate or suppress plaintiffs’ adult entertainment. It has simply chosen not to subsidize it. Such selective, categorical exclusions from a government subsidy do not offend the First Amendment. Plaintiffs were not singled out for this exclusion, even among businesses primarily engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment. Congress also excluded businesses “primarily engaged in political or lobbying activities.” View "Camelot Banquet Rooms, Inc. v. United States Small Business Administration" on Justia Law

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Peggy Harvey and Eileen Manzanares were injured in separate car accidents when their cars were struck by other drivers. Each was then taken to a Centura-affiliated hospital (along with Centura Health Corporation, “Centura”) for treatment. At the time they were treated by Centura, both women’s health insurance was solely through Medicare and Medicaid. And both women’s injuries resulted in hospital stays. In addition to Medicare and Medicaid, both women had automobile insurance whose policies included medical payment ("Med Pay") coverage for medical bills incurred as a result of a motor vehicle accident. In addition, the third-party tortfeasors who caused Harvey’s and Manzanares’s injuries also had automobile insurance. Both Harvey and Manzanares advised Centura of all of the available health and automobile insurance policies. Centura then assigned the women’s accounts to a collection agency, Avectus Healthcare Solutions, for processing; Avectus submitted Centura’s medical expenses to each of the automobile insurers involved, including the automobile insurers for Harvey, Manzanares, and the third-party tortfeasors. Within two weeks after submitting these charges to the various automobile insurers (and within two months of the women’s respective discharges from their hospital stays), Centura filed hospital liens against both of the women. Centura conceded it did not bill either Medicare or Medicaid before filing their respective liens. Both Harvey and Manzanares subsequently brought suit, alleging that Centura had violated the Lien Statute by not billing Medicare for the services provided to the women prior to filing the liens. The parties disputed whether when, as here, Medicare was a person’s principal source of health coverage, Medicare could be considered a “primary medical payer of benefits” under the Lien Statute (such that a hospital must bill Medicare before asserting a lien), or if such an interpretation was barred by the Medicare Secondary Payer statute, which designated Medicare as a “secondary payer.” The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that when Medicare was a patient’s primary health insurer, the Lien Statute required a hospital to bill Medicare for the medical services provided to the patient before asserting a lien against that patient. "Hospital liens are governed by state, not federal, law, and merely enforcing our Lien Statute does not make Medicare a primary payer of medical benefits in violation of the MSP Statute." View "Harvey v. Centura, No." on Justia Law

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Compensatory education is not an automatic remedy for a child-find violation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Compensatory educational services are designed to counteract whatever educational setbacks a child encounters because of IDEA violations—to bring her back where she would have been but for those violations. At minimum, a parent must offer evidence that a procedural violation—like the child-find violation asserted here—caused a substantive educational harm, and that compensatory educational services can remedy that past harm.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the district court was well within its "broad discretion and equitable authority" when it concluded that plaintiff had not shown that the school board's child-find violation resulted in educational deficits for the child that could be remediated with prospective compensatory relief. Furthermore, because the school began its special education referral process before plaintiff filed suit, she cannot show that she is entitled to attorney's fees. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "J.N. v. Jefferson County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the high school and school district in an action brought by plaintiff under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Plaintiff, a student with attention deficit disorder, sought damages after he was assaulted and seriously injured by another student at a high school football game. Petitioner argues that guidance issued by the DOE in various Dear Colleague Letters should be binding, and that the school's failure to adopt all of the Letters' suggestions for preventing harassment of disabled students amounts to disability discrimination.The panel concluded that guidance issued by the DOE in the Letters was not binding and that plaintiff may not use the Letters to leapfrog over the statutory requirements to assert a cognizable claim under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. The panel explained that the Letters do not adjust the legal framework governing private party lawsuits brought under the ADA or Rehabilitation Act. Therefore, plaintiff's claims—which rely entirely on the enforceability of the Letters as distinct legal obligations—fail. In this case, the Letters did not make plaintiff's need for social accommodation "obvious," such that failure to enact their recommendations constituted a denial of a reasonable accommodation with deliberate indifference. Furthermore, no request for a social-related accommodation was ever made and no prior incidents of bullying or harassment involving plaintiff were observed or reported by the school prior to the assault during the football game. View "Csutoras v. Paradise High School" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that the six-year statute of limitations for contract actions governed this case and that the efforts of Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicaid (MassHealth) to collect overpayments made to providers in the State Medicaid program were time barred.In 2005, MassHealth sent an audit notice to a provider, Suburban Home Health Care, Inc., but took no further action until 2016, when it initiated recovery proceedings. Suburban sought declaratory relief, arguing that the proceedings were barred under the statute of limitations for "actions of contract" in Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 2. The superior court denied relief, concluding that the administrative proceedings to collect the overpayments could not be considered civil actions, and therefore, no statute of limitations applied. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the six-year statute of limitations for contract actions applied and that MassHealth's action was time barred. View "Suburban Home Health Care, Inc. v. Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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Attorney Conn represented Plaintiffs and thousands of other claimants in seeking disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Conn bribed doctors to certify false applications and bribed an ALJ to approve those applications. After Conn’s scheme was uncovered, the SSA identified over 1,700 applications for redetermination of eligibility. Years of litigation ensued. Both Plaintiffs sought attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A). Both courts awarded fees less than the amounts requested.The Sixth Circuit vacated the awards. Courts can award attorney’s fees for work performed during “all phases of successful civil litigation addressed by” the EAJA; one district court erred by holding that the EAJA does not authorize fees for work performed after the judgment becomes final. Both district courts abused their discretions by awarding below-market hourly rates. Plaintiffs’ unrefuted evidence established a market range of $205-500 but the courts concluded that the relative simplicity of the actions justified rates of only $125 and $150, although there is no evidence that any lawyer in the relevant communities would accept these rates for any kind of service. The complexity of the action is relevant to determine where the particular attorney’s representation lies along the spectrum of the market for legal services. It cannot be invoked to justify a rate below the established spectrum. View "Doucette v. Commissioner of Social Security" on Justia Law

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After two administrative hearings, Brown was awarded disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits by an ALJ, who concluded that, as of April 25, 2018, Brown was “disabled” within the meaning of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 416(i), 423(d), 1382c(a)(3)(A), but rejected Brown’s claim that he was disabled prior to that date. The district court upheld the ALJ’s decision.The Ninth Circuit remanded with instructions to set aside the ALJ’s determination and to conduct a new disability hearing before a different, and properly appointed ALJ. The ALJ who conducted Brown’s hearings was not appointed in conformity with the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. Because this proceeding did not arise from a direct appeal from a decision of one or more invalidly appointed officers, nor was it a direct petition for review that might similarly have brought the entirety of the administrative decision before the court, the Commissioner may not challenge the portions of that decision that are favorable to Brown. The court held that it had no authority under 42 U.S.C. 405(g). to set aside, or to disturb, the grant of benefits for the time period on or after April 25, 2018, View "Brown v. Kijakazi" on Justia Law

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Larson served on active duty for training in the Navy Reserves in 1988 and on active duty in the Navy, 1989-1993. He gained a substantial amount of weight before, during, and after his active service. In 2009, Larson filed a claim for service connection for multiple conditions, including obesity and dysmetabolic syndrome (DMS). The VA denied the claims in 2010. The Board affirmed that denial in 2016, holding that neither DMS nor obesity was a disability because neither condition is ratable under the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities. The Veterans Court affirmed the denial of service connection for DMS and obesity, holding that it lacked jurisdiction to review a Board determination of what constitutes a disability under 38 U.S.C. 1110 because such inquiry amounted to a review of the rating schedule, prohibited by 38 U.S.C. 7252(b).The Federal Circuit reversed, noting that it has previously held that the Veterans Court has jurisdiction to review a Board determination that a claimed condition did not constitute a disability for purposes of section 1110. Larson seeks only to establish a service connection for his conditions and is not asking the Veterans Court to invalidate or revise any portion of the rating schedule. View "Larson v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that sections 631 and 683 of the Unemployment Insurance Code exclude from coverage a provider who is the recipient's minor child, parent, or spouse under the state's unemployment insurance program, holding that the court of appeal did not err.The IHSS program authorized certain Californias, who were disabled or elderly, to receive in-home services from third parties or family members paid for with public funds. Under one program option, service recipients hire their own providers and the providers are paid either by a public entity or by the recipients with funds they have received from a public entity. At issue was whether such a provider qualified for unemployment benefits. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative, holding that provider who is the recipient's minor child, parent, or spouse is not covered by the state's unemployment insurance program. View "Skidgel v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board" on Justia Law