The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Lancellotta V. Sec'y HHS

Date: 
01/01/1986

Vocatoinal Factors. Stress. "Stress is not a characteristic of a job, but instead reflects an individual's subjective response to a particular situation ... Without an evaluation of Lancellotta's vocational abilities in light of his anxiety disorder, there is no basis for the ALJ's conclusion that he can perform low stress work." Stress is a factor which must be considered on an individualized basis for performing a range of work at step 5. Vocational evidence that there are a significant number of jobs in the economy that would be "low stress" for the average worker falls short of the requirements of Ruling 85-15. ALJ must undertake subjective, individualized inquiry into what job attributes are likely to produce disabling stress in the claimant, and what, if any, jobs exist in the economy that do not possess these attributes. ALJ must make subjective, individualized inquiry into nature of and what triggers claimant's nonexertional limitations. ALJ erred by failing to make findings as to claimant's ability to perform basic mental work-related activities. Although the ALJ apparently relied upon claimant's even demeanor at the disability hearing as evidence of his ability generally to work at low-stress jobs, we consider a claimant's ability to visit doctors and describe his medical problems coherently as insufficient evidence of his ability to work. Hypothetical to vocational expert is inadequate because it failed to elicit from the vocational expert any testimony directed specifically to the conditions that are likely to produce stress in the claimant. The basic mental demands of competitive, remunerative, unskilled work include the abilities (on a sustained basis) to understand, carry out, and remember simple instructions; to respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations; and to deal with changes in a routine work setting. A substantial loss of ability to meet any of these basic work- related activities would severely limit the potential occupational base. This, in turn, would justify a finding of disability because even favorable age, education, or work experience will not offset such a severely limited occupational base." Social Security Ruling 85-15. The burden of showing the existence of other jobs in the national economy that the claimant can perform (Step 5) rests on the Secretary. Vocational evidence that there are a significant number of jobs in the economy that would be "low stress" for the average worker falls short of the requirements of Ruling 85-15. ALJ must undertake subjective, individualized inquiry into what job attributes are likely to produce disabling stress in the claimant, and what, if any, jobs exist in the economy that do not possess these attributes.


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