ALJ’s development of the record adequate, says appellate court
Monday, August 2, 2021

ALJ’s development of the record adequate, says appellate court

By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff

In a Social Security appeal, the court applies a deferential standard of review. The key question is whether the ALJ’s decision was supported by substantial evidence. Here, the claimant argued that it was error for the ALJ to take into account his own observations of the claimant’s physical condition at the hearing. He argued that his condition at the hearing was outside the relevant time period under consideration. However, the court disagreed. The claimant had not only been seeking benefits for a closed period of time. Rather, he sought an open-ended period of disability and his condition on the day of the hearing was relevant. It was necessary to show that he became disabled before his date last insured and was still disabled on the date of the hearing in order to obtain a continuing flow of benefits. Noting that it is a routine, common-sense practice for an ALJ to observe claimants, the court found no reason to criticize him for his partial reliance on his own observations in his determination of disability. Indeed, if there were an error, the court concluded that it was harmless. The court could disregard the ALJ’s own comments and affirm on the basis of the remainder of the ALJ’s 15-page opinion, which evaluated extensive medical and behavioral evidence. The denial of the claimant’s application for disability benefits was supported by substantial evidence (Dragan Kaplarevic v. Commr., CA-7, No. 20-2432, July 1, 2021).

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