Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order upholding the Social Security Administration's denial of plaintiff's benefits claim, because substantial evidence supports the finding that the SSA has met its burden. The court concluded that the Vocational Expert relied on sufficient evidence, such as plaintiff's own testimony, when he formed his expert opinion. The court also concluded that the evidence supports the ALJ's finding that plaintiff can transfer her job skills to new sedentary positions, such as the suggested positions of order clerk, receptionist, or appointment clerk. Furthermore, there is sufficient evidence in the record to show that plaintiff possessed job skills that would transfer to other sedentary occupations. View "Swedberg v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of disability insurance benefits and supplemental social security income to plaintiff. The court held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's decision to give little weight to plaintiffs' treating physicians because their opinions were vague and imprecise and did not provide any function-by-function analysis. Furthermore, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision to give greater weight to the medical consultants' opinions than to the treating physicians' opinions.Finally, the vocational expert's answer to the first hypothetical question, regarding whether a hypothetical person—who could lift amounts that plaintiff could, sit and stand for periods that she could, and work in a workplace devoid of fumes that irritated her—could work, is substantial evidence because it is a response to a hypothetical with the impairments accepted as true by the ALJ and reflected in the residual functional capacity (RFC). However, the vocational expert's answer to the second hypothetical question, regarding whether a hypothetical person with the impairments plaintiff alleged could work, was not substantial evidence because the hypothetical person in the second hypothetical did not have the same RFC as plaintiff. View "Kraus v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of social security benefits to plaintiffs, rejecting plaintiffs' claim that the ALJs who denied their claims were not properly appointed under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. The court held that plaintiffs' unexhausted claims are foreclosed by Davis v. Saul, 963 F.3d 790 (8th Cir. 2020), cert. granted, 2020 WL 6551772 (Nov. 9, 2020) (No. 20-105). View "Smith v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's challenge to the Commissioner's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The court held that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's determination concerning the limits of plaintiff's ability to reach and handle throughout an otherwise sedentary workday. In this case, one of the jobs cited by the vocational expert as available in the national economy—call out operator—requires only occasional, rather than frequent, handling. Therefore, the identified job is even less demanding on plaintiff's upper extremities than would be permitted by the Commissioner's residual functional capacity limitation. View "Lawrence v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Independent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Minnesota has adopted an "open enrollment" process that allows a parent to enroll a student in a school outside of the student's local district.The Eighth Circuit held that the IDEA does not require a school district that enrolls a nonresident student like M.N.B. to provide transportation between the student's home and the school district where her parent has chosen to enroll her. The court saw nothing in the IDEA that provides clear notice to a state that it must cover transportation expenses when a student's travel is the result of a parent's choice under an open enrollment program. Therefore, under the circumstances presented here, the court concluded that the IDEA does not require the Osseo District to reimburse M.N.B.'s parent for the cost of transportation between her home and the border of the Osseo District. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of M.N.B. View "Osseo Area Schools v. M.N.B." on Justia Law

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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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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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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

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order affirming the ALJ's denial of plaintiff's application for disability benefits. The court held that the ALJ's error in failing to provide good reason for giving plaintiff's treating psychiatrist's opinion limited weight was not harmless error. In this case, the failure to comply with SSA regulations is more than a drafting issue, it is legal error. Furthermore, the court cannot determine whether the ALJ would have reached the same decision denying benefits, even if the ALJ had followed the proper procedure for considering and explaining the value of the psychiatrist's opinion. Accordingly, the court remanded for further administrative proceedings and for reconsideration of plaintiff's claims. View "Lucus v. Saul" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of social security disability benefits to plaintiff, holding that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC). The court held that the ALJ's finding that plaintiff can perform frequent but not constant grasping, handling, and fingering with her right arm is supported by substantial evidence. View "Pemberton v. Saul" on Justia Law