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.

Lucas v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division

September 5, 2019

VIRGINIA K. LUCAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Virginia K. Lucas brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her claims for disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and for supplemental security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. Because the Appeals Council erred in refusing to consider new and material evidence submitted to it after the administrative law judge's (ALJ's) decision, I will remand the matter to the Commissioner for further consideration.

         Procedural History

         On October 22, 2015, the Social Security Administration denied Lucas's August 2015 applications for DIB and SSI in which she claimed she became disabled on August 3, 2015, because of back pain, back injury, depression, migraine headaches, back surgery, emotional stress, anxiety, and heel spur. At Lucas's request, a hearing was held before an ALJ on May 30, 2017, at which Lucas and a vocational expert testified. On November 3, 2017, the ALJ denied Lucas's claims for benefits, finding that vocational expert testimony supported a conclusion that Lucas could perform work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. On April 20, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Lucas's request for review of the ALJ's decision. The ALJ's decision is thus the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         In this action for judicial review, Lucas claims that the Appeals Council erred in failing to consider new, material, and relevant evidence submitted after the ALJ's decision.[2] Lucas asks that I reverse the final decision and remand the matter to the Commissioner with instruction that it consider this additional evidence and grant review of the ALJ's decision.

         For the reasons that follow, I will remand the matter to the Commissioner with instruction to resubmit the additional evidence at issue to the Appeals Council for appropriate consideration under the relevant Social Security Regulations. I will not instruct that the Appeals Council grant review of the ALJ's decision. Whether to grant review is within the province of the Appeals Council upon remand.

         Medical Records and Other Evidence of Record

         With respect to medical records and other evidence of record, I adopt Lucas's recitation of facts set forth in her Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts (ECF 13) and note that they are admitted by the Commissioner (ECF 21-1). I also adopt the Commissioner's Statement of Additional Facts (ECF 21-2), which Lucas does not dispute (ECF 24). These statements provide a fair and accurate description of the relevant record before the Court. Additional specific facts are discussed as needed to address the parties' arguments.

         Relevant Background

         Dr. James L. Deline has been Lucas's treating physician since at least 1983. He has treated her over the years for various ailments and conditions, including the flu, sinusitis, depression, kidney stones, headaches, and back pain. He also managed her pregnancies. Dr. Deline's treatment records dated from 1983 through March 2017 were before the ALJ at the time of her decision. Among these records was a letter dated October 27, 2015, directed to a Missouri state representative, in which Dr. Deline described Lucas's exertional and non-exertional limitations caused by her depression and back pain. (Tr. 597.)

         After the ALJ rendered her adverse decision on November 3, 2017, Dr. Deline wrote a letter to the Appeals Council entitled “Letter of Appeal” in which he detailed Lucas's symptoms and work-related limitations caused by her depression and back pain, noting that she was first diagnosed with depression in 1998, suffers from chronic back pain as confirmed by diagnostic tests, and has not worked since February 2016 because of her impairments. (Tr. 32-34.) The letter is dated November 30, 2017, and was received by the Appeals Council on December 22, 2017.[3]

         The Appeals Council acknowledged its receipt of Dr. Deline's November 30 letter but stated that the letter did not relate to the relevant period: “The Administrative Law Judge decided your case through November 3, 2017. This additional evidence does not relate to the period at issue. Therefore, it does not affect the decision about whether you were disabled beginning on or before November 3, 2017.” (Tr. 2.) Because the Social Security Regulations provide that the Appeals Council does not accept additional evidence that does not relate to the period on or before the date of the ALJ hearing decision, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.970(c), 416.1470(c) (2017), it appears that the Appeals Council did not consider the letter in determining whether to review the ALJ's decision. Indeed, the Appeals Council did not list Dr. Deline's letter as additional evidence to be made part of the administrative record. (Tr. 1, 6.)

         Lucas contends that the Appeals Council erred in failing to consider Dr. Deline's letter in determining whether to review the ALJ's decision. Because the reason given by the Appeals Council to disregard this evidence ...


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.