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Plaintiff appealed the denial of her application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. The Fourth Circuit held that the ALJ did not give appropriate weight to the opinions of plaintiff's treating physicians and failed to adequately explain his decision to deny her benefits. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Neither the grant in an irrevocable trust of a right of occupancy and use in a primary residence to an applicant nor the retention of a life estate by the applicant in the applicant’s primary residence makes the equity in the home owned by the trust a countable asset for the purpose of determining Medicaid eligibility for long-term care benefits under the Federal Medicaid Act. At issue before the Supreme Judicial Court in these two cases was whether applicants were eligible for long-term care benefits under the Act Act where they created an irrevocable trust and deeded their home - their primary asset - to the trust but retained the right to use and reside in the home for the rest of their life. The Director of the Massachusetts Office of Medicaid (MassHealth) found that the applicants were not eligible for long-term care benefits. The superior court upheld MassHealth’s determinations. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the judgments in both cases because MassHealth found that the equity in both homes was a “countable” asset whose value exceeded the asset eligibility limitation under the Act. View "Daley v. Secretary of Executive Office of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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M.N. filed a due process complaint alleging that the District committed procedural and substantive violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400(d)(1)(A). The ALJ denied all claims and the district court affirmed. The Ninth Circuit filed an amended opinion reversing the district court's judgment, holding that neither the duration of the hearing, the ALJ's active involvement, nor the length of the ALJ's opinion can ensure that the ALJ was thorough and careful in its findings of fact; plaintiffs' claim that the District committed a procedural violation of the IDEA by failing to adequately document its offer of the visually impaired (TVI) services was not waived; the District committed two procedural violations as to the individualized education plan (IEP); the District's failure to specify the assistive technology (AT) devices that were provided infringed M.N.'s opportunity to participate in the IEP process and denied the student a free appropriate education (FAPE); the panel remanded for a determination of the prejudice the student suffered as a result of the District's failure to respond to the complaint and the award of appropriate compensation; in regard to substantive violations, the panel remanded so the district court could consider plaintiffs' claims in light of new guidance from the Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas Cty. Sch. Dist., 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017); and M.N., as the prevailing party, was entitled to attorneys' fees. View "M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District" on Justia Law

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Ollis, a veteran, sought disability benefits under 38 U.S.C. 1151, which provides benefits for certain injuries incurred as a result of VA medical care. Ollis suffers from atrial fibrillation and claims a disability resulting from complications of a heart procedure to treat that condition. The procedure (miniMAZE) was allegedly recommended by a VA doctor but was performed by a private doctor. The VA denied Ollis’s application for benefits. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims affirmed. The Federal Circuit vacated in part, remanding the question of whether Ollis’s VA doctors were negligent by recommending the mini-MAZE procedure to him. The Veterans Court focused on whether VA medical treatment caused Ollis to utilize Dr. Hall and Methodist Medical Center, rather than on whether VA medical treatment caused him to have the mini-MAZE procedure itself. On remand, the Veterans Court must also address the “not reasonably foreseeable” and “proximate cause of the disability” requirements. The court affirmed rejection of an argument that VA’s failure to provide him notice that a referral to a private facility for his miniMAZE procedure could extinguish his eligibility for benefits constituted a violation of his right to due process. View "Ollis v. Shulkin" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit held that the five-day grace period outlined in 20 C.F.R. 422.210(c) does not apply to final decisions on remand where the individual does not file any written exceptions to the administrative law judge's decision and the Appeals Council does not assume jurisdiction of the case. Plaintiff applied for Title II disability benefits with the Social Security Administration. On remand, an ALJ issued a partially favorable decision on Plaintiff’s claim. Plaintiff did not file any written exceptions to the ALJ’s decision, and the Appeals Council did not review the ALJ’s decision. Therefore, the ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. Plaintiff then filed a civil action challenging the ALJ’s decision on remand. The Commissioner moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim as untimely. The district court ruled against Plaintiff and dismissed her complaint for being untimely filed. Plaintiff appealed, asking the First Circuit to hold that the five-day grace period outlined in section 422.210(c) applies to final decisions on remand. The First Circuit declined Plaintiff’s request, holding that Plaintiff cannot apply the five-day grace period under section 422.210(c) to save her civil claim from being untimely. View "Walker-Butler v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that “medical assistance” provided to Medicaid recipients includes costs for room and board and other “nonmedical” expenses at nursing facilities, and therefore, those costs can be recovered from the recipient’s estate. In this case, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) filed a petition for allowance of a claim for services provided to the decedent while he resided at two different nursing homes. The county court sustained DHHS’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the services defined as room and board fell within the parameters of services provided under the Medical Assistance Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that DHHS was statutorily authorized to recover the sums it paid for room and board costs and other expenses from the decedent’s estate. View "In re Estate of Vollmann" on Justia Law

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Substantial evidence supported finding that hospital’s contracts with physicians violated Anti-Kickback statute. Novak and Nagelvoort participated in a scheme under which Sacred Heart Hospital paid illegal kickbacks to physicians in exchange for patient referrals. Novak was the Hospital’s owner, President, and Chief Executive Officer. Nagelvoort was an outside consultant, and, at various times. served as the Hospital’s Vice President of Administration and Chief Operating Officer. Federal agents secured the cooperation of physicians and other Hospital employees, some of whom recorded conversations. Agents executed warrants and searched the Hospital and its administrative and storage facilities. The prosecution focused on direct personal services contracts, teaching contracts, lease agreements for the use of office space, and agreements to provide physicians with the services of other medical professionals. The Seventh Circuit affirmed their convictions under 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b)(2)(A) and 18 U.S.C. 371, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence to prove that they acted with the requisite knowledge and willfulness under the statute; that the government failed to prove that certain agreements fell outside the statute’s safe harbor provisions; and that Nagelvoort withdrew from the conspiracy when he resigned his position, so that any subsequent coconspirator statements were not admissible against him. View "United States v. Naglevoort" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of plaintiff's application for attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A), holding that the Commissioner's litigation position was substantially justified. Plaintiff had successfully challenged the Commissioner's denial of her application for disability benefits and obtained a remand of her claim to the agency for further consideration. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the Commissioner's position was substantially justified because the Commissioner's opposition to remand the claim on the merits was reasonable, even though it turned out to be unsuccessful. Finally, plaintiff's new evidence, though sufficient in the end to persuade the district court to remand the case, did not make that the only reasonable result. View "Decker v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of plaintiff's application for attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), 28 U.S.C. 2412(d)(1)(A). Plaintiff presented new evidence to the Appeals Council after she lost her claim for social security disability benefits before the ALJ. The district court remanded for further consideration and the Commissioner did not appeal. The district court denied plaintiff's request for attorney's fees, concluding that the Commissioner was substantially justified in arguing that the new evidence did not undermine the ALJ's denial of benefits. The issue that was before the district court on the original merits appeal of the ALJ's denial of benefits was not whether there was other evidence that could support a denial of benefits to plaintiff, or whether the Commissioner's denial of benefits might ultimately be sustained. The Ninth Circuit explained that it was whether the actual decision that was made by the ALJ could be affirmed at that time by the district court in light of the new evidence in the record. In this case, it should have been plain that it could not have been affirmed, because the ALJ's decision failed to provide a reason that was still viable for giving the opinion of the treating doctor little weight. The doctor's final report, if credited, would have undermined the ALJ's original finding that plaintiff was not disabled. Even if the Commissioner might have had a legitimate basis for opposing plaintiff's claim, she did not have a basis to oppose remand and to argue that the district court should affirm the existing ALJ opinion. View "Gardner v. Berryhill" on Justia Law

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Social security survivors' benefits are a thing of value of the United States that can support a conviction under 18 U.S.C. 641. Viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the Fourth Circuit concluded that substantial evidence supported defendant's conviction for theft of government property beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, the jury could reasonably infer from two denied benefits applications that defendant had a motive to file under a different benefits program to again attempt to obtain benefits to which he was not entitled. Finally, the district court's trial management was reasonable and far from an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Kiza" on Justia Law