U.S. District Court, Western District of New York
VanValkenburg v. Astrue
Background: The plaintiff seeks judicial review of the denial of her claim for SSI benefits. She claimed disability beginning Dec. 31, 2003 based on several conditions, including personality disorder, depression, anger issues and back injuries. The commissioner moved to reverse and remand the ALJ’s decision denying the plaintiff’s claim for benefits. Specifically, the defendant claims the ALJ improperly relied on a vocational expert’s testimony that was premised on an incomplete hypothetical question posed to the expert. According to the commissioner, because the hypothetical question posed did not take into account all of the plaintiff’s limitations, the defendant seeks remand of the action pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §405(g), authorizing the court to remand the cause for further proceedings.
Ruling: In the instant case, remand is appropriate to allow the ALJ to correct the record by recalling the vocational expert and asking hypothetical questions based on all limitations found by the ALJ. Although the ALJ found the plaintiff was limited to carrying 10 pounds; sitting without interruption for only one hour and standing and walking without interruption for up to 20 minutes, those limitations were not included in the hypothetical questions presented to the vocational expert by the ALJ. The ALJ erred in relying on the expert’s conclusions as a result. The defendant’s motion to remand is granted.
Tonya S. VanValkenburg, pro se, and John J. Field, assistant U.S. attorney, for the defendant