341 F.3d 182 (2nd Cir. 2003), 02-6268, Jasinski v. Barnhart

Docket Nº:02-6268
Citation:341 F.3d 182
Party Name:Jasinski v. Barnhart
Case Date:August 14, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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Page 182

341 F.3d 182 (2nd Cir. 2003)

Suzanne L. JASINSKI, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Jo Anne B. BARNHART, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee.

Docket No. 02-6268.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

August 14, 2003

Argued May 6, 2003.

Page 183

Kenneth R. Hiller, Amherst, NY, for Appellant.

Sybil L. Burnett, Assistant Regional Counsel (Lisa De Soto, General Counsel, Barbara L. Spivak, Chief Counsel, on the brief), Social Security Administration, New York, N.Y. for Appellee.

Before: WALKER, Chief Judge, CARDAMONE and SOTOMAYOR, Circuit Judges.

JOHN M. WALKER, Jr., Chief Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Suzanne Jasinski brought this action seeking reversal of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") denying her application for Social Security disability insurance benefits. Jasinski claims that in her administrative hearing, the administrative law judge ("ALJ") relied upon testimony by a vocational expert that conflicted with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("the Dictionary"), an official publication of the Department of Labor. We write to clarify what constitutes a "conflict" and therefore requires legal resolution, and to explain that, in certain circumstances, an ALJ may rely on an expert's opinion, notwithstanding a conflict with the Dictionary, when the opinion is adequately supported by the evidence.

I. BACKGROUND

Jasinski claims that she became disabled due to an accident in 1999, which caused neck and back injuries and limited her ability to work. On October 19, 2000, the ALJ denied her benefits claim. To determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Social Security Administration must undertake a five-step evaluation:

First, the Commissioner considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. Where the claimant is not, the Commissioner next considers whether the claimant has a "severe impairment" that significantly limits her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If the

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claimant suffers such an impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment that is listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1.... Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, she has the residual functional capacity to perform her past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform her past work, the burden...

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