Holliday v. Astrue, No. 05-CV-1826 (DLI) (VVP) (E.D. N.Y., May 05, 2009)

Dora L. Irizarry, District Judge

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York denied an unopposed Commissioner's motion for summary judgment and remanded the case for further consideration.  The court held that substantial evidence did not support the denial of a claimant's SSDI benefits where the ALJ failed to adequately develop the record to ascertain whether the claimant's cardiovascular impairments and/or atopic dermatitis met the severity criteria of the relevant Social Security Listings (SSL 4.8 and/or 8.5).  The medical record evidence indicated that the claimant had been diagnosed with cardiomegaly, hypertensive obstructive cardiomyopathy, left ventricular hypertrophy, congestive heart failure, as well as atopic dermatitis with hyperpigmentation and lichenification.  The court was unable to determine whether the claimant's medical conditions responded to medical treatment.  The claimant showed up two hours late to a video conference site and testified before an ALJ from Virginia who only cursory questioned whether she understood that she had a right to legal representation.  The ALJ failed to ascertain whether the claimant's judgment was "lucid and unclouded by alcohol" when she testified that she had "a beer before the hearing" and where the record indicated that the claimant might have had alcohol dependence. 

The court found that " the use of teleconferencing equipment in this case may have been especially prejudicial, since it may have impaired the ALJ's ability to observe the existence and severity of Plaintiff's lesions; make proper credibility determinations; and evaluate whether Plaintiff was intoxicated at the hearing, thus rendering her unable to knowingly waiver her right to an attorney."