Cox v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION. Signed by Judge R David Proctor on 8/5/2015. (AVC)
2015 Aug-05 PM 02:31
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security,
Civil Action No.: 2:14-cv-00962-RDP
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
Plaintiff, Elizabeth Cox, brings this action pursuant to Section 1631(c)(3) of the Social
Security Act (the “Act”), seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her claims for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). See also 42
U.S.C. § 1383(c). Based on the court’s review of the record and the briefs submitted by the
parties, the court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is due to be affirmed.
This action arises from Plaintiff’s application for SSI which she filed September 1, 2010,
alleging that her disability began that same day.
(Tr. 118, 170). On February 22, 2011,
Plaintiff’s SSI application was denied by the Social Security Administration. (Tr. 118-25).
Plaintiff requested and received a video hearing on October 2, 2012. At the hearing, Plaintiff
appeared in Birmingham, Alabama and testified before Administrative Law Judge Ben Barnett
(hereinafter “ALJ”), who presided over the hearing from St. Louis, Missouri. (Tr. 39, 77). Mary
House Kessler, an impartial Vocational Expert, also appeared at the hearing. (Tr. 39, 77). In his
decision issued, October 22, 2012, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act from Plaintiff’s alleged onset date, September 1, 2010, through the date of his decision. (Tr.
On April 12, 2013, almost six months after the ALJ’s decision, Plaintiff received a
psychological evaluation from her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Artie Nelson.1 (See Supp. Tr. 764765). In a report connected to that assessment, Dr. Nelson opined that Plaintiff experiences
“marked” limitations with respect to her ability to understand, remember, and carry out simple
instructions, and in her ability to make complex work-related decisions. (Supp. Tr. 764). Further,
Dr. Nelson opined that Plaintiff suffered from “extreme” limitations with respect to her ability to
understand, remember, and carryout complex instructions, as well as, in in her ability to make
simple work-related decisions. (Supp. Tr. 764). Dr. Nelson also opined that Plaintiff suffered
from a “marked” impairment in her ability to interact appropriately with co-workers, and
“extreme” impairments in her ability to interact with the public and supervisors, as well as, in her
ability to respond to changes in her work environment. (See Supp. Tr. 765). In his report, Dr.
Nelson indicated that these limitations dated back to June 10, 2011. Plaintiff submitted this
assessment to the Appeals Council to supplement her request for review of the ALJ’s decision.
(See Pl.’s Mem. at 346, Supp. Tr. 764-766).2
On March 28, 2014 the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review (Tr. 1-6),
and that rendered the ALJ’s decision final and, therefore, a proper subject of this court’s
appellate review. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 422.210(a). The Appeals Council acknowledged
Dr. Nelson’s notes from June 2010 to September 2012 exist in the medical record. (See Tr. 668-709).
In addition to Dr. Nelson’s Mental Source Statement (Supp. Tr. 764-66), Plaintiff submitted other
evidence to the Appeals Council. (See Pl.’s Mem. at 346-48, Tr. 707-709, Supp. Tr. 710-766). Upon consideration,
the Appeals Council included some of Plaintiff’s additional evidence in the record (see Tr. 5-6), but found most of
the additional evidence chronologically irrelevant or duplicative, and immaterial; therefore, the Appeals Council
determined that there was not a basis to include most of the evidence. (See. Tr. 1-2). Here, Plaintiff alleges error
only with respect to the exclusion of Dr. Nelson’s Mental Source Statement, thus waiving all challenges to the
Appeals Council’s treatment of Plaintiff’s other evidence submitted for review.
Plaintiff’s additional evidence, but concluded that because it post-dated the ALJ’s decision and
provided an analysis of Plaintiff’s condition at a later time, the records from the evaluation did
not affect the ALJ’s decision about whether Plaintiff was disabled on or before September 1,
2010. (Tr. 2).
At the time of Plaintiff’s hearing, Plaintiff was fifty-two years-old and had the equivalent
of a high school education. (Tr. 170). Plaintiff previously worked as a laborer, sales
representative, survey taker, cashier, telemarketer, buffet attendant, and server. (Tr. 88, 112, 194,
She alleges a disability beginning on September 1, 2010, due to Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, diabetic neuropathy, an anxiety disorder,
depression, and pain in her feet. (Tr. 170, 192).
The medical evidence of record during the relevant time period contains a note dated
September 3, 2010 from Dr. Galioto, indicating that Plaintiff had been diagnosed with
generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD and was prescribed Adderall and Xanax. (Tr. 349)
On October 20, 2010, Dr. Pierce of Birmingham Health Care Center noted Plaintiff
presented a history of uncontrolled diabetes mellitus (“DM”), complained of numbness and pain
in her feet, and reported that she had lost all of her medications. (Tr. 395-96). Dr. Pierce noted
that Plaintiff was non-compliant with respect to her DM medications, diet, and exercise, and that
Plaintiff had a poor understanding of her illness. (Tr. 395). Plaintiff indicated that she was seeing
a psychiatrist for treatment, and Dr. Pierce observed that her anxiety was “much improved.” (Tr.
395-96). Dr. Pierce’s evaluation notes from December 7, 2010, reflect that Plaintiff had an
unstable home situation and was unable to develop a routine to consistently take her medications.
(Tr. 479). Plaintiff continued to receive primary care at Birmingham Health Care Center
throughout 2011 and 2012. (Tr. 467-76, 600-18, 639-58).
On December 14, 2010, at the request of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”),
Plaintiff presented for a consultative examination with Dr. Shepard. (Tr. 435-41). After
reviewing Plaintiff’s medical records and performing a physical examination, Dr. Shepard
diagnosed Plaintiff with uncontrolled DM type two, with evidence of peripheral neuropathy, and
left wrist pain that followed a non-union left wrist fracture. (Tr. 435-41). Dr. Shepard observed
that Plaintiff had “pressured speech and was somewhat tangential,” with difficulty staying
focused and following instructions. (Tr. 439-40). On January 24, 2011, again at the request of the
SSA, Plaintiff presented for a consultative psychological exam conducted by Dr. Beidleman,
who indicated that Plaintiff did not appear to have “full-blown” ADHD, and diagnosed Plaintiff
with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder with late onset, and possible Borderline
Personality Disorder. (Tr. 442-45). Dr. Beidleman noted that while Plaintiff could remember
simple instructions, she may not interact well with coworkers and supervisors. (Tr. 445).
On June 4, 2011, Plaintiff visited the emergency room at St. Vincent’s Medical East after
injuring her left hand. (Tr. 517). She complained of related pain and swelling. (Id.). X-rays
taken that day showed a deformity of the distal metacarpal and a possible acute fracture. (Tr.
522). Plaintiff was transferred to Cooper Green Hospital, where additional x-rays showed a nondisplaced acute fracture of the left hand and an old non-united fracture of the left wrist. (Tr. 546).
Plaintiff was seen in the orthopedic clinic on June 8, 2011. (Tr. 547).
From June 2011 through September 2012, Plaintiff received psychiatric care from Dr.
Artie Nelson. (Tr. 668-703, 709). Dr. Nelson noted that Plaintiff was prescribed multiple
medications for previous diagnoses of Depression, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, and Mood Anxiety
Disorder. (Tr. 705). Dr. Nelson conducted multiple mental status assessments, which indicated
Plaintiff’s “fluctuating” attention. (Tr. 670, 672, 679, 682, 685).
Plaintiff received counseling services at Gateway from November 2011 to January 2012.
(Tr. 578-99). An intake form noted that Plaintiff had difficulty staying on subject and that her
responses seemed distracted and dramatic. (Tr. 578). Plaintiff described a long history of abuse
and trauma as a child and adult. (Tr. 578, 586). The counselor noted Plaintiff exhibited
inappropriate mental status features in areas of motor activity, attention, speech, mood, affect,
thinking, and insight. (Tr. 578). Plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder, Mood Disorder, and sustained Polysubstance Abuse in full remission. (Tr. 587). On
January 23, 2012, Plaintiff was discharged from counseling due to a lack of transportation to
attend appointments and a lack of finances. (Tr. 599).
At her hearing on October 2, 2012, Plaintiff testified she is unable to work because of
mental health problems, including ADHD and anxiety. (Tr. 89, 98). Plaintiff testified that she
suffered from episodes of uncontrollable crying three to four times a week, which lead to four or
five panic attacks a month. (Tr. 89, 98). Plaintiff testified that these attacks interfere with her
concentration and memory, and indicated that, while attempting vocational rehabilitation, she
had difficulties remembering and following instructions. (Tr. 91-92).
Further, Plaintiff testified that her uncontrolled diabetes, with blood sugar levels between
378 to 400mg/dL, causes neuropathy in her legs and feet, affecting her ability to stand for long
periods of time. (Tr. 94). Plaintiff estimated that she could perform an activity while standing for
25 to 30 minutes before needing a break, and that she could walk without stopping for two or
three blocks. (Tr. 95-96). Plaintiff also testified that after breaking her hand twice she sometimes
has difficultly lifting heavy items and closing her hand. (Tr. 108).
When questioned by the ALJ, Plaintiff testified that she was fired from her last job as a
salesperson, because she was unable to sell enough products. (Tr. 101). Plaintiff further testified
that she tried to work at a buffet after losing her sales job, but that she was let go because of the
pain in her feet. (Tr. 101). Plaintiff testified that she no longer engages in past hobbies, but that
she is able to cook and clean without assistance. (Tr. 102). Plaintiff admitted that she had been
noncompliant with her diabetic injections, and explained that her noncompliance was due to
marks, ulcers, and recurring infections at the injection sites. (Tr. 106-107). Plaintiff testified that,
at the time of the hearing, she was compliant with her prescribed DM treatment. (Tr. 106).
At Plaintiff’s hearing, Dr. Kessler, a Vocational Expert, testified that an individual,
similarly situated to Plaintiff in all relevant aspects, could not perform Plaintiff’s past work, but
such an individual would be able to work in other positions available in significant numbers
within the national economy. (Tr. 114).
The ALJ Decision
Disability under the Act is determined under a five-step test. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First,
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). Work activity involving significant physical or mental activities is
“substantial,” while “gainful” work is done for pay or profit. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(a)-(b). A
claimant is presumed to have the ability to engage in substantial gainful activity when her
earnings from employment rise above the amount allowed under 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.974, 416.975.
A claimant cannot claim disability if found to engage in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(b). Second, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a medically
determinable impairment, or combination thereof, that significantly limits the claimant’s ability
to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Absent such impairment, the
claimant may not claim disability. Id. Third, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant’s
impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App’x 1. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526. If such criteria are
met, the claimant is declared disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii).
If the claimant does not meet the listed criteria, the ALJ may still find disability, after
completing a claimant’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(e). Based on this RFC assessment, the ALJ determines whether the claimant can
perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). Should the ALJ find that the
claimant is capable of performing past relevant work, the claimant is deemed not disabled. Id.
However, if the ALJ finds that the claimant cannot perform past relevant work, then the ALJ
must determine whether the claimant is able to perform any other work commensurate with her
RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 404.1520(g). At this
stage of the analysis the burden shifts to the ALJ to prove that, given a claimant’s RFC, age,
education, and work experience, a claimant is capable of making a successful adjustment to other
jobs, which are available in substantial numbers within the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(g) and 404.1560(c).
In the present case, after considering the record in its entirety (as it existed at the time),
the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 1,
2010. (Tr. 41). The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from a combination of severe impairments,
including Diabetes Mellitus with neuropathy, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Dysthymic
Disorder, and possible Borderline Personality Disorder.3 (Tr. 41). However, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff’s impairments, individually or in combination, neither met nor medically equaled
The ALJ determined that the evidence regarding Plaintiff’s impairments of a left wrist fracture and
hypertension indicated that these impairments were non-severe. (Tr. 41)
Listings 9.00,4 12.04, 12.06, or 12.08. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). (Tr. 42). The ALJ
found that Plaintiff failed to satisfy the “Paragraph B” requirements of Listings 12.04, 12.06, and
12.08, as well as the “Paragraph C” requirements of Listings 12.04 and 12.06, and also
determined that Plaintiff had no more than moderate impairments, and no episodes of
decompensation. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App’x 1. (Tr. 42)
When assessing Plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ noted that
Plaintiff’s statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of her symptoms
were not entirely credible in light of objective medical evidence of record. (See Tr. 43-46). The
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a range of light,
exertional work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), but more narrowly
tailored Plaintiff’s RFC by adding that Plaintiff is to avoid exposure to hazards, moving
machinery, and unprotected heights, and is limited to performing simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks, in a stable work environment that involves only superficial interaction with others. (Tr.
The ALJ found that though unable to perform past relevant work (Tr. 46), Plaintiff was
capable of making a successful adjustment to other jobs that are available in substantial numbers
within the national economy. (Tr. 47-48). Accordingly, the ALJ ruled that from September 1,
2010 to October 22, 2012, Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act, and, therefore, was not
entitled to disability benefits. (Tr. 48).
Plaintiff’s Argument For Reversal or Remand
Plaintiff seeks to have the ALJ’s decision reversed, or in the alternative, remanded for
further consideration. (See Pl.’s Mem. at 14). Plaintiff presents two arguments: (1) the Appeals
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not meet the requirements of Listing 9.00 because she did not have
end organ damage consistent with meeting a listing under another body system. (Tr. 42).
Council erred in failing to consider and failing to include in the evidence of record the opinion of
Dr. Artie Nelson, and (2) the ALJ erred in failing to properly consider the vocational
rehabilitation records in Exhibit 25E. (Pl.’s Mem. at 7).
Standard of Review
The only issues before this court are whether the record reveals substantial evidence to
sustain the ALJ’s decision, and whether the correct legal standards were applied. See 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988), Walden v. Schweiker, 672 F.2d 835,
838 (11th Cir. 1982). The Commissioner’s findings are conclusive if supported by “substantial
evidence.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Martin v. Sullivan, 894 F.2d 1520, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). The
district court may not reconsider the facts, reevaluate the evidence, nor substitute its judgment
for that of the Commissioner. Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 1983)).
Considering the final decision as whole, the court may only decide if the decision is reasonable
and supported by substantial evidence. See id.
Substantial evidence is the relevant evidence “a reasonable person would accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Martin, 894 F.2d at 1529 (quoting Bloodsworth, 703 F.2d at
1239). When substantial evidence exists in support of the Commissioner’s decision, his decision
must be affirmed, even if the evidence preponderates to the contrary. See Id. However, the court
notes that judicial review, although limited, “does not yield automatic affirmance” of the ALJ’s
decision. Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988).
In light of the legal standards that apply in this case, the court rejects Plaintiff’s
arguments for remand or reversal. For the reasons outlined below, the court finds that the ALJ
relied on substantial evidence and the proper legal standards were applied.
Dr. Nelson’s Medical Source Opinion Is Immaterial
Appropriately Excluded From the Evidence of Record
Plaintiff argues that the Appeals Council failed to consider Dr. Nelson’s medical source
opinion dated April 12, 2013, and that this failure warrants reversal, or in the alternative, remand.
(Pl.’s Mem. 7). Plaintiff’s argument falls short.
When a claimant takes issue with the Appeals Council’s evaluation of new evidence, the
court may properly review the new evidence to determine whether the evidence warrants further
consideration. Fry v. Massanari, 209 F. Supp. 2d 1246, 1252 (N.D. Ala. 2001)(citing Keeton v.
Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., 21 F. 3d 1064, 1067-68 (11th Cir. 1994)). The Appeals
Council is only required to consider new evidence that is both material and relevant. 20 C.F.R. §
404.970(b); see Keeton, 21 F.3d at 1066. New evidence is relevant if it relates to the period on or
before the date of the ALJ’s hearing, 20 C.F.R. § 404.970(b); see Keeton, 21 F.3d at 1066, and
material if there is a “reasonable possibility” that it would change the administrative outcome.
Hyde v. Bowen, 823 F.2d 456, 459 (11th Cir. 1987).
Here, the Appeals Council found that Dr. Nelson’s progress notes from January 2013 to
December 2013 did not relate to the time on or before October 22, 2012, and therefore were
immaterial. (Tr. 2). While conceding that the Appeals Council is correct in its evaluation of most
of Plaintiff’s new evidence, Plaintiff argues that the Appeals Council erred with respect to Dr.
Although at the administrative level Plaintiff claimed physical and mental impairments, on appeal, she
refers only to her alleged mental impairments. (See Pl’s Br. at 7-14). Accordingly, Plaintiff has abandoned any claim
with respect to any purported physical impairments. See Hernandez v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 433 F. App’x 821, 823
(11th Cir. 2011).
Nelson’s Medical Source Statement (“Statement”) that indicated that the limitations found in his
opinions were first present in June 2011. (Pl.’s Mem. at 9; See Supp. Tr. 347). Cf. Mason v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 430 F. App’x 830, 823-33 (11th Cir. 2011) (discrediting subsequent
diagnoses that do not expressly state they apply to the disability period when the diagnoses
conflict with evidence of record). However, any error with respect to the Appeals Council’s
determination that Dr. Nelson’s Statement was chronologically irrelevant, is harmless at best.
See Caldwell v. Barnhart, 261 F. App’x 180, 190 (11th Cir. 2008) (“When, however, an
incorrect application of the regulations results in harmless error because the correct application
would not contradict the ALJ’s ultimate findings, the ALJ’s decision will stand.”); Mansfield v.
Astrue, 395 F. App’x 528, 530-31 (11th Cir. 2010); and see Burgin v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 420
F. App’x 901, 903 (11th Cir. 2011)(indicating that when new evidence’s probative value was
“slight and did not render denial of benefits erroneous,” remand was not required).
Dr. Nelson’s Statement indicated that Plaintiff had marked limitations in her ability to
understand, remember and carry out simple instructions, make complex-work related decisions,
and interact appropriately with co-workers. (Supp. Tr. 764-65). The Statement also indicated
Plaintiff had extreme limitations in her ability to understand, remember, and carry out complex
instructions, make simple work-related decisions, interact appropriately with the public and
supervisors, and respond appropriately to usual work situations and changes in the routine work
environment. (Id.). These severe limitations assigned to Plaintiff by Dr. Nelson are inconsistent
with his own treatment records and the rest of the objective medical evidence of record. (Tr. 667703). See 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c); Crawford v. Comm’r of Social Sec., 363 F.3d 1155, 1159-60
(11th Cir. 2004)(upholding a finding that the ALJ properly discounted a medical opinion which
was inconsistent with the medical source’s own treatment notes, unsupported by the medical
evidence, and based primarily on Plaintiff’s subjective complaints.). Dr. Nelson’s own treatment
records indicate that Plaintiff’s condition was, at most, moderate. (Tr. 45, 667-703). Between
June 2011 and October 2012, Dr. Nelson never rated the severity of Plaintiff’s anxiety,
depression, attention, nor mood liability as more than moderate, and by January 2012 Dr. Nelson
no longer rated the severity of Plaintiff’s depression nor her anxiety. (Tr. 669-70, 678-79, 681,
Further, the limitations indicated by Dr. Nelson’s Statement are inconsistent with the
medical evidence of record and Third Party Statement. After evaluation, Dr. Beidleman reported
that Plaintiff did not appear to have functional limitations in her daily activities, could function
independently, and could remember simple work instructions. (Tr. 445). Dr. Estock opined that
Plaintiff was moderately limited in seven areas of functioning, but indicated no significant
limitations in the remaining thirteen areas of functioning. (Tr. 461-462). Additionally, Mr.
Parsons, with whom Plaintiff lived and served as a housekeeper, submitted a Third Party
Function Report indicating that Plaintiff was able to shop for him, pay bills, manage her
finances, had hobbies, socialized without problems, and was fairly capable of following
instructions. (Tr. 235-37). Accordingly, Plaintiff’s arguments that the Appeals Council erred in
finding Dr. Nelson’s Medical Source Statement immaterial, and that the Council also erred by
failing to include Dr. Nelson’s Statement in the record are without merit. See HALLEX § I-3-520, 1993 WL 643143 (SSA) (instructing the Appeals Council’s to refrain from exhibiting
evidence which is neither new, material, nor chronologically relevant).
For the reasons above, this court finds Dr. Nelson’s Medical Source Statement
immaterial, and, therefore, finds no reversible error in the Appeals Council’s evaluation and
exclusion of Dr. Nelson’s Medical Source Statement.
Substantial Evidence Supports the ALJ’s RFC Assessment
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ’s failure to refer to evidence from the Alabama Department
of Vocational Rehabilitation Services within his written decision warrants reversal. The court
disagrees. “[T]here is no rigid requirement that the ALJ specifically refer to every piece of
evidence in his decision.” Dyer v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1206, 1211 (11th Cir. 2005).
A review of the record demonstrates that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s mental
RFC finding that Plaintiff was able to perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks in a work
environment with only occasional changes in setting and superficial interaction with others.6 See
also, supra at 11-12. The ALJ assigned significant weight to Dr. Beidleman’s consultative
examination report and to Dr. Estock’s mental RFC assessment. (Tr. 45-46, 443-45, 461-63).
Both Drs. Beidleman and Estock concluded that, despite limitations in her ability to adjust to
work changes and interact with others, Plaintiff had the ability to understand, remember, and
carry out simple instructions and the ability to make simple work-related decisions. (Tr. 443-45,
461-63). The ALJ also indicated that, under Dr. Nelson, Plaintiff’s mental health treatment plan
was conservative, and records described, at most, only moderate symptoms of anxiety,
depression, or liable moods. (Tr. 44-45, 669-70, 681, 684, 688). Further, the ALJ referred to
October 2010 treatment records from Plaintiff’s primary care physician, which reported that
Plaintiff’s anxiety was “much improved” after psychiatric treatment. (Tr. 395).
Records from Plaintiff’s vocational rehabilitation program do not establish that Plaintiff
was disabled or had additional limitations not addressed by the ALJ. Plaintiff contends that these
records show Plaintiff’s limitations in basic mental demands of competitive work, as indicated
On appeal, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ determination that Plaintiff was able to perform light
work, but rather argues that the ALJ erred in not explicitly discussing the vocational rehabilitation records in his
written decision. (Pl.’s Mem. at 7-13; see e.g., Tr. 43) Notably, Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ’s assessment of
her physical limitations, nor does she challenge the ALJ’s credibility determination. (Pl’s Mem. at 7-14).
by Plaintiff’s problems following instructions, interacting with others, and handling work
pressures. (Pl.’s Mem. 12). However, the ALJ narrowly tailored Plaintiff’s RFC with respect to
these limitations. (See Tr. 43.) The ALJ’s RFC limited Plaintiff to simple, routine, and repetitive
tasks, allowed for only superficial contact with coworkers and the public, and insisted on a stable
a work environment. (Tr. 43). When completing the RFC assessment the ALJ considered Dr.
Beidleman’s examination records, indicating that Plaintiff’s concentration and attention were
within normal limits, Plaintiff’s judgment was adequate, that Plaintiff did not indicate cognitive
confusion, and could function independently. (Tr. 444-45). During examination by Dr.
Beidleman, Plaintiff demonstrated that she was capable of following simple instructions. Upon
request, Plaintiff counted backwards, performed simple subtraction, repeated numbers in
sequence, and spelled the word “world” backwards and forwards. (Tr. 444). Further, the ALJ
specifically considered Mr. Parson’s statements showing Plaintiff was able to perform simple
tasks as his housekeeper, including cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving, grocery shopping, and
walking his dog. (Tr. 231, 233-35). Also, Mr. Parsons reported that Plaintiff socialized, and was
capable of managing a savings account and paying bills. (Tr. 235-36). Notably, no physician -treating, examining, or reviewing -- opined that Plaintiff suffers from functional limitations
greater than those found by the ALJ.
Accordingly, the court finds that the ALJ properly analyzed the evidence of record, and
his RFC assessment is supported by substantial evidence; therefore, his decision is due to be
The court concludes that the ALJ’s determination that Plaintiff is not disabled is
supported by substantial evidence and the proper legal standards were applied in reaching this
determination. The Commissioner’s final decision is therefore due to be affirmed. A separate
order in accordance with this memorandum of decision will be entered.
DONE and ORDERED this August 5, 2015.
R. DAVID PROCTOR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?