The Seventh Circuit Clarifies “Patently Wrong” Credibility Standard

Credibility determinations, although no longer classified as “credibility” by the Agency, are critical aspects of a Social Security Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ’s) decision. To constitute a proper credibility determination, a claimant’s statements about their pain must be considered by an ALJ when issuing a decision. See Social Security Ruling (SSR) 16–3p. In rendering a credibility determination, first, the Agency must consider whether there is an underlying medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) that could reasonably be expected to produce an individual’s symptoms, such as pain. Second, once an underlying physical or mental impairment that could reasonably be expected to produce an individual’s symptoms is established, the Agency must evaluate the intensity and persistence of those symptoms to determine the extent to which the symptoms limit an individual’s ability to perform work-related activities for an adult or to function independently, appropriately, and effectively in an age-appropriate manner for a child with a title XVI disability claim.

Generally, “[a]n ALJ is in the best position to determine a witness’s truthfulness and forthrightness” and the Seventh Circuit standard was to not overturn an ALJ’s credibility determination unless it is “patently wrong.” Skarbek v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 500, 505 (7th Cir. 2004).

In Cullinan v. Berryhill, 878 F.3d 598, 603 (7th Cir. 2017), while the Seventh Circuit continued to utilize the recognized “patently wrong” standard, the Court clarified that “patently wrong” means that the determination lacks explanation or support. The Court explained that “[a] credibility determination lacks support when it relies on inferences that are not logically based on specific findings and evidence.” Id.

If you are appealing a case to the Seventh Circuit or to any of the district courts within, make sure to check the recent Seventh Circuit decisions at http://media.ca7.uscourts.gov/opinion.html

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