ALJ MUST INCLUDE ALL MENTAL IMPAIRMENTS AT STEP FIVE
THE 7TH CIRCUIT HELD THE ALJ MUST INCLUDE ALL MENTAL IMPAIRMENTS IN HYPOTHETICAL TO THE VE
In Crump v. Saul, the 7th Circuit court held that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) must include all mental impairments, including moderate impairments, in the hypothetical to the Vocational Expert (VE). If the ALJ does not, then she cannot rely on the VE’s hypothetical to deny the claim.
Crump applied for disability benefits based on mental health symptoms from Bipolar Disorder and Polysubstance Abuse Disorder. She told the ALJ that she couldn’t work because her mental problems cause moderate impairments. The ALJ did not include her moderate problems with concentration, persistence, or pace in her hypothetical to the VE. Instead, the ALJ found she could perform work limited to ‘simple and repetitive tasks.” With that description, the VE said there were jobs available to the claimant and she was denied.
“SIMPLE AND REPETITIVE TASKS” NOT ADEQUATE DESCRIPTION OF CLAIMANT’S ABILITIES
Crump argued that her “moderate” difficulties should be in the ALJ’S hypothetical to the VE. If they were, she argued, it would show she could not sustain employment. Her ability to maintain concentration and effort throughout the workday would impair her to the point she could not work. The 7th Circuit agreed with Crump. That Court states that limiting her to “simple and repetitive tasks” was not enough information for the VE. Likewise, such a finding did not include claimant’s “moderate” mental impairments.
In short, saying the claimant could do simple, repetitive tasks at work would not account for Crump’s ongoing difficulties with concentration, persistence, or pace at work. This is important because this case shows even “moderate” impairments must be part of the ALJ’s hypothetical to the VE. It also shows that moderate impairments can prevent work. The 7th Circuit remanded the case to the ALJ.
MODERATE MENTAL IMPAIRMENTS ELIMINATE ALL WORK
At the hearing, the majority of ALJ’s use “simple and repetitive tasks” in their hypotheticals to the VE. This statement is used by ALJ’s to justify the finding claimant can do “unskilled work.” Typically, if a claimant can perform sedentary or light unskilled work, it results in a denial of the claim. Crump stands for the fact that even moderate mental impairments can eliminate work. Most importantly, those moderate mental impairments erode the ability to sustain a 40 hour work week. Moderate mental impairments in concentration and pace impact task completion during the work day. If a claimant can’t persist during an 8 hour day, they can’t work. The same is true if the claimant must take extra breaks. Full-time work could not be done.
If you have a denial from an ALJ, make sure the decision includes all of your impairments. Especially, make sure your mental issues are part of the ALJ’s hypothetical to the VE. Moderate mental impairments equate to mistakes on the job, being off task, and needing extra breaks at work. If you receive an ALJ denial, you have only 60 days from the date on the decision to appeal. Make sure you appeal quickly. Mental impairments do impact your ability to work. Contact Cannon Disability Law if you have disabling mental impairments. We help clients in Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. We can help you too.