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Social Security must Consider Claimant’s Medications and GAF score

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2014 | Social Security Disability

Social Security must consider Claimant’s Medications and GAF (global assessment of functioning) score in determining their disability.  After our client’s case was denied by the Administrative Law Judge and again by the Appeal’s Counsel, Susan O’Malley determined our client’s case had merit and filed suit against the Social Security Administration.

O'Malley Tunstall achieved a successful judgment in the Hickman v. Colvin case. The court adopted the magistrate’s recommendation and found that the Administrative Law Judge’s conclusions regarding the Plaintiff’s mental impairments were not supported by substantial evidence.

The Administrative Law Judge made an incorrect finding that the Plaintiff did not require medication to treat his mental health issues. Social Security must consider the “type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication.” 20 C.F.R. §404.1529(c)(3). Since the Judge did not find that the Plaintiff was taking such medication, even though the record showed that he was, the evidence of medication was not properly considered.

The judge also incorrectly concluded that a global assessment of functioning (GAF) score of 55 indicated only mild impairment due to mental health issues. When, in fact, a GAF indicates a severe impairment. Bennett v. Barnhart, 264 F. Supp. 2d 238, 255 (W.D. Pa. 2003).  In addition, Social Security “does not endorse the use of the GAF in Social Security and SSI disability programs.” Melgarejo v. Astrue, No. 08-cv-3140-JKS.

Furthermore, the Judge did not correctly review the opinion of the treating physician that the Plaintiff could not work as a result of his mental health issues. “This opinion thus suggests that plaintiff’s ability to adapt to a work environment may be more limited than might otherwise appear from [the doctor’s] office visits notes, which are based on his condition when not working.” (Memorandum and Recommendation p.13)

Based on these findings, the magistrate recommended that the case be remanded for another hearing that will comply with the findings in the Memorandum and recommendation. 

Essentially Susan O’Malley convinced a Federal Magistrate to recommend to a Federal District Court Judge to give our client a new hearing. This decision can be used by other attorneys to argue on behalf of their clients.  Susan continues to fight and advocate for our Disability clients.


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