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Trump Judge Would Ignore Treating Physician’s Medical Opinion and Deny Disability Benefits: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

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Trump Judge Would Ignore Treating Physician’s Medical Opinion and Deny Disability Benefits: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties. Cases in the series can be found by issue and by judge at this link.

Trump Ninth Circuit judge Patrick Bumatay would deny an individual’s disability benefits application and ignore the supporting evidence presented by the individual’s treating physician.  The July 2020 decision was Greppi v. Saul.

Raymond Greppi had been receiving psychiatric care due to physical, mental and emotional childhood trauma. He suffered from PTSD, anxiety and social withdrawal. His concentration and attention were also impaired. These issues kept him from working with others and maintaining employment. Notes from Greppi’s treating physician repeatedly indicated Greppi’s inability to work with others. Greppi had not been employed since 2011 and he eventually applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits, but his application was denied by an administrative law judge (ALJ).

Greppi appealed to the district court arguing that the ALJ put substantial weight on the opinion of a non-examining consulting physician who did not personally examine him, but rendered an opinion on Greppi’s condition 2.5 months after Greppi’s disability claim was filed.

The district court affirmed the ALJ’s denial of Greppi’s benefits and he then appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

In a 2-1 decision, the majority reversed the district court’s decision. They explained that the ALJ erred when it disregarded relevant and consistent medical evidence from Greppi’s treating physician whose opinion should have been given more weight because not only was he Greppi’s treating physician, but his opinion was also consistent with other independent medical evidence also in the record.  They went on to say that the ALJ’s  decision was not harmless or “inconsequential to the ultimate nondisability determination.”

Judge Patrick Bumatay dissented explaining “where the Administrative Law Judge’s decision is supported by substantial evidence, our duty is to affirm—even if we think the evidence could be interpreted differently.”