United States District Court for the Western District of New York
Social Security Disability Benefits
Cherry-picking the record – Reconciling conflicting medical evidence
Montanez v. Berryhill
Background: The plaintiff sought review of the denial of disability benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security.
Ruling: The District Court granted the plaintiff’s motion. The court noted that, while an ALJ is not obligated to reconcile explicitly every conflicting shred of medical testimony, the ALJ cannot simply selectively choose evidence in the record that supports his or her conclusions. The District Court held that by rejecting portions of the opinions of every consulting or examining physician and treating therapists in the record on the basis of his own conclusory finding that those opinions were contradicted by an unidentified “totality” of the evidence, the ALJ improperly cherry-picked the record and substituted his own expertise or view of the medical proof in place of any competent medical opinion.