Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, holding that plaintiff's contention that the ALJ made two errors at step two of its analysis of disability claims had no merit; all impairments were taken into account both times; any alleged error was harmless and could not be the basis for remand; using the shorthand "personality disorder" did not indicate any error in the ALJ's determination of plaintiff's residual functioning capacity (RFC); Dr. Kenderdine's partial reliance on plaintiff's self-reported symptoms was not a reason to reject his opinion; conflict in the record corroborated the rejection of Dr. Toews' testimony as a basis for rejecting Dr. Kenderdine's opinion; the ALJ did not err in rejecting Dr. Schechter's opinion; plaintiff's complaint that the ALJ only considered Dr. Fisher's opinion in the third section of a submitted form and ignored the first section lacked merit; any error in excluding three jobs identified by the vocational expert (VE) was harmless; but, the vast discrepancy between the VE's job numbers and those tendered by plaintiff, presumably from the same source, was simply too striking to be ignored. Therefore, this inconsistency in the record must be addressed by the ALJ on remand. View "Buck v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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An educational agency does not commit a per se violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1414, by not specifying the anticipated school where special education services will be delivered within a child's individualized education program. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Department in an action brought on behalf of a student under the IDEA. The panel held that the IDEA did not require identification of the anticipated school where special education services would be delivered in light of the student's planned move to a new school district. Therefore, the student was not denied a free appropriate public education because of a purported procedural error. View "Rachel H. v. Department of Education, State of Hawaii" on Justia Law

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A claimant must, at a minimum, raise the issue of the accuracy of the vocational expert's estimates at some point during administrative proceedings to preserve the challenge on appeal in federal district court. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits. In this case, the ALJ's residual functional capacity determination was supported by substantial evidence and there was no inconsistency between the opinions of two physicians regarding his capability for interaction with colleagues. Furthermore, plaintiff waived his challenge to the vocational expert's job numbers where he did not suggest that the vocational expert's job estimates might be unreliable at any point during administrative proceedings. View "Shaibi v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision affirming the Commissioner's denial of plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits. The panel held that the ALJ committed legal error when she failed to provide legally sufficient reasons to discount the opinions of examining psychologist Dr. Hart, and when she failed to provide germane reasons to discount the opinions of treating nurse practitioner Dr. Sorrell; the ALJ's error in discounting these opinions permeated her hypothetical to the vocational expert regarding the availability of a significant number of jobs in the national economy that plaintiff could perform; and therefore the panel remanded for an award of benefits. View "Popa v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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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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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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The Ninth Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction relators' appeal of the district court's dismissal of their qui tam suit against UOPX. The panel held that the appeal was untimely because relators' post-judgment motion, although styled as a Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) motion, was in substance a motion only to stay the entry of judgment, which did not toll the time to file a notice of appeal. View "United States ex. rel. Hoggett v. University of Phoenix" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the denial of disability benefits and held that the ALJ did not follow the appropriate methodology for weighing a treating physician's medical opinion. In this case, the panel explained that the ALJ should have credited the treating physician's opinion and found that plaintiff was disabled, and the district court erred by developing its own reasons to discount the treating physician's opinion, rather than reviewing the ALJ's reasons for substantial evidence. The panel held that substantial evidence did not support the ALJ's finding that plaintiff's symptoms were not as severe as she testified, particularly in light of the extensive medical record objectively verifying her claims. Because each of the "credit-as-true" factors in Garrison v. Colvin, 759 F.3d 995, 1020 (9th Cir. 2014), was satisfied, remand for the calculation and award of benefits was warranted. View "Trevizo v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of relators' qui tam action alleging that the College violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, by knowingly providing false progress reports on students in order to keep grant monies. The panel held that the Tribe is not a "person" under the FCA. The panel remanded for further jurisdictional factfinding on whether the College was an arm of the Tribe that shares the Tribe's status for purposes of the FCA. View "United States ex rel Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc." on Justia Law