ALJ’s pick between two experts does not justify overturning agency’s conclusion
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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

ALJ’s pick between two experts does not justify overturning agency’s conclusion

By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff

If the record in a case supports two inconsistent conclusions, the court must affirm the Commissioner’s decision between those two choices. Here, an agency mental health expert performed a psychological exam and stated that the claimant was moderately depressed but not within the intellectual disability range. Another expert who evaluated the claimant diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and found that he had marked mental impairments. The ALJ determined that the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform some light, unskilled work with limitations. On appeal, the court concluded that the ALJ properly rejected the opinion that found significant mental disabilities. The court noted that the ALJ found that the expert took the claimant’s complaints at face value without complying with SSA standards for ascertaining disability. Furthermore, the expert did not test for malingering. Moreover, there was evidence in the record that the claimant’s conditions could be controlled with medication, which weighed against a finding of disability. Under the applicable standard of review, even if the claimant’s arguments against crediting the opinion had merit, it would not mean the ALJ was required to agree with the other expert’s opinion. The court reasoned that even if the claimant showed that the ALJ picked between two potentially flawed expert opinions in a limited record, that would not justify overturning the agency’s conclusion. Because the ALJ’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, the denial of benefits was affirmed (Dwain Bagwell v. Commr., CA-8, No. 18-2514, February 28, 2019).

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