Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Rounds v. Commissioner of Social Security (9th Cir. - Aug. 4, 2015)

Heather Rounds lives in Oregon.  She's 22 years old, a high school graduate, and lives with her five-year old daughter, a boyfriend, and two cats.  She's had two short-term jobs in her life:  one as a gas station cashier and one at a fast-food restaurant.  She says that she has "difficulties with social interactions, leaving the house, sleeping, remembering to eat and care for herself, and remembering instructions. Nevertheless, she stated that she was able to care for her daughter and her cats, prepare simple meals, share house work with her roommate, shop for groceries, and pay bills."

She'd like social security disability payments.  Presumably for the rest of her life, since the things about which she complains (not wanting to interact with others, etc.) will not likely change.

Ms. Rounds "sees no reason to want to work".  The Ninth Circuit opinion discusses at length the various ailments that Ms. Rounds alleges she might have, many (if not all) of which involve self-reported difficulties.  She also has "unusual beliefs and perceptions".

A number of twenty-somethings in Oregon might fit this description.

The ALJ denies benefits.  The district court affirms.  The Ninth Circuit partially reverses and remands.

Trying to separate those who are truly disabled from those who simply would prefer not to work is a difficult task.  Made even more difficult by the reality that (1) some ailments truly do not have many objective signs, and (2) some people are willing to claim ailments of this type but do not in fact have them.  There's also a fine line between finding work (as Ms. Rounds does) "'hard and exhausting' due to not fitting in with her co-workers and struggling to interact with customers" because you have real psychological problems versus simply rather being at home with your boyfriend, daughter, and/or cats instead of at work.  A reality that would describe many of us.