RamosLaw just won a great victory in the First Circuit Court of Appeals against Acting Social Security Commissioner Nancy Berryhill. On August 10, 2018, the First Circuit vacated the judgment of the Massachusetts District Court and determined that our client was "prejudiced by having his psychiatric treatment ignored by the ALJ." Torres-Pagan v. Berryhill, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 22271.
This decision shows RamosLaw's commitment to fighting and winning tough battles on behalf of persons with disabilities. Obviously, this victory required a lot of hard work and perseverance. (The First Circuit Court of Appeals is the federal court one step removed from the United States Supreme Court.) Very few denied disability cases ever go this far. However, in this case, such an extraordinary amount of work was necessary in order to protect the rights of our client and create legal precedent that will also protect the rights of other disabled claimants.
In Torres-Pagan we argued that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) erred, --when he determined that Mr. Torres-Pagan was no longer disabled--, because the Social Security Administration (SSA) failed to obtain and consider his psychiatric records. The First Circuit agreed with us and determined that the SSA had a heightened duty to develop the record in this case due to Mr. Torres-Pagan's mental disability. The decision contains some very eloquent statements supporting the rights of individuals who suffer from mental illness:
[I]ndividuals with psychiatric disorders are often some of the most vulnerable in society and unlike the standard pro se claimant at an SSA hearing, those with alleged disabilities sounding in mental health may be particularly vulnerable when unrepresented by counsel. We are thus satisfied that Torres-Pagan was prejudiced by having his psychiatric treatment ignored by the ALJ.
Torres-Pagan presented important legal and public policy issues regarding the manner in which the SSA conducts re-determination of benefits evaluations of individuals, who have previously been found to suffer from an intellectual disability, who have difficulty advocating on their own behalf and, very often are unable to obtain legal representation. We trust that Commissioner Berryhilll will take appropriate measures within her agency to ensure that her staff and the adjudicators that she appoints comply with this decision.