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Home / Case Digests / U.S. District Court, WDNY – Social Security disability benefits: Harbot v. Berryhill

U.S. District Court, WDNY – Social Security disability benefits: Harbot v. Berryhill

United States District Court of the Western District of New York

Social Security disability benefits

Treating physician rule – Commissioner’s burden

Harbot v. Berryhill


Judge Larimer

Background: The plaintiff commenced an action seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security that concluded she is not disabled under the Social Security Act.

Ruling: The District Court granted the plaintiff’s motion. The court held that the Commissioner had failed to demonstrate why the opinions of the plaintiff’s treating psychiatrists are not entitled to controlling weight, or demonstrate that the plaintiff can perform any work that exists in the economy. The court noted that the administrative law judge’s analysis of the plaintiff’s treating physician to be legally and factually erroneous. Despite the use of check-boxes on the form used by the doctor, the doctor’s opinion was fully supported by narrative explanations. The check boxes also contained hand-written explanations next to them that overflowed to a second page. Further, the District Court noted that it is not the doctor’s opinion on the plaintiff’s employability that should have guided the ALJ’s analysis, but rather the doctor’s opinion as to the limitations caused by the plaintiff’s symptoms such as sleep disruption, intrusive voices from alternate personalities, uncontrollable psychogenic seizures, panic attacks, and social withdrawal, which the form and its attachments identify and discuss in detail.