District Judge Thomas Griesa
Arias sought disability insurance benefits after her neck and dominant right arm were hurt in a workplace accident. In addition to severe pain, the injury limits Arias’ ability to work. She cannot push, pull or lift more than 10 pounds with her right arm and must avoid repetitive motion. In addition to depression, Arias suffers from “adjustment disorder.” An administrative law judge’s (ALJ) 2009 ruling denying benefits—based on a conclusion that Arias retained sufficient residual capacity to do light work—was partly grounded on a vocational expert’s report that relied on the ALJ’s “residual capacity assessment.” District court vacated, and remanded, the decision denying the benefits. Noting the five-step disability evaluation process outlined in DeChirico v. Callahan, the court concluded that because it paid insufficient attention to evidence of side effects of Arias’ medications and her psychological condition, the ALJ’s decision was not based on substantial evidence. The ALJ’s residual functional capacity assessment failed to address crucial determinations as to Arias’ ability to walk. Further, Arias’ testimony about swelling and pain in her knees was omitted, without explanation, from the assessment relied on by the vocational expert.