Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vallejo v. Berryhill

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

February 28, 2017

MARLA VALLEJO, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL [*], Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted on the briefs:[**]

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (D.C. No. 1:13-CV-01196-MSK)

          Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, John F. Walsh, United States Attorney, Alisa B. Klein, Appellate Attorney, Civil Division, and Gerard Sinzdak, Appellate Attorney, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Defendant-Appellant.

          Michael W. Seckar, Michael W. Seckar, P.C., Pueblo, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before MATHESON, BACHARACH, and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.

          MORITZ, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         The Acting Commissioner appeals the district court's order reversing her decision to deny Marla Vallejo's application for supplemental security income benefits and remanding the case for further administrative proceedings. Because the district court's order rests on a misapplication of controlling law, we reverse and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

         Background

         Vallejo applied for supplemental security income benefits in April 2010, alleging she had been disabled since November 2009. After the agency administratively denied her claim, she received a hearing with an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ evaluated Vallejo's testimony and the medical opinions of a consulting physician, a state-agency physician, an examining psychologist, and a state-agency psychologist. Although the record contained no medical opinions from treating physicians, Vallejo informed the ALJ at the hearing that her treating physician, Dr. Jerald Ratner, was preparing a mental health opinion. The ALJ agreed to consider the opinion if she received it before issuing her decision. One week later, the ALJ issued a decision adverse to Vallejo.

         The next day, Ratner completed his opinion, titled "Residual Functional Capacity Evaluation (Mental)." App. 206. Ratner opined that Vallejo had bipolar disorder, and he rated her level of impairment as "extreme" in 13 of 20 functional areas. Id. at 206-07. He further advised that Vallejo wouldn't be able to "work at any job 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, " because her impairment would cause her to be "off task" one hundred percent of the time. Id. at 208.

         Vallejo requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision and submitted Ratner's opinion with her request. The Appeals Council denied review, stating that it "considered" Ratner's opinion, along with other additional evidence, but found that evidence didn't "provide a basis for changing the [ALJ's] decision." Id. at 51-52. The Appeals Council's denial of Vallejo's request for review rendered the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481.

         Vallejo then sought judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision. Ruling from the bench, the district court found one of Vallejo's five arguments dispositive: that the Appeals Council erred "in not properly articulating its assessment" of Ratner's opinion in denying Vallejo's request for review. App. 215. Based on Ratner's status as a treating physician, the court reasoned that the Appeals Council was required to "follow the same rules" as the ALJ by evaluating Ratner's opinion and either assigning it controlling weight or articulating reasons for assigning it a lesser weight. Id. at 217. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c) (requiring agency factfinder to evaluate all medical opinions and give controlling weight to opinions from treating sources or explain why lesser weight is given).

         Because neither the ALJ nor the Appeals Council expressly evaluated Ratner's opinion, the district court reversed the Commissioner's decision and remanded for the Appeals Council to either (1) determine what weight, if any, to give Ratner's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.