Steinkamp v. Social Security Administration, Commissioner
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER OF REMAND that the decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED and this action is REMANDED to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration for further consideration consistent with this order as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 6/17/2017. (AHI )
2017 Jun-15 PM 03:35
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting
Commissioner, Social Security
Case No. 4:16-CV-1550-M
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Claimant, Alan Steinkamp, commenced this action on September 19, 2016,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final adverse decision of
the Commissioner, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”),
and thereby denying his claim for child disability and supplemental security income
The court’s role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is
a narrow one. The scope of review is limited to determining whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the
Commissioner, and whether correct legal standards were applied. See Lamb v.
Claimant, who was born on May 28, 1990, was 24 years old at the time of the ALJ’s
decision, and 22 years old when he applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits on December
19, 2012. But he was only 17 years old on his alleged onset date of disability, October 2, 2007. See
Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253
(11th Cir. 1983).
Claimant contends that the Commissioner’s decision is neither supported by
substantial evidence nor in accordance with applicable legal standards. Specifically
claimant asserts that the ALJ: (1) should have found him to be disabled under Listings
12.04 and 12.05C; (2) improperly rejected the examining psychologist’s opinion; (3)
failed to assess the intensity and persistence of claimant’s symptoms pursuant to
Social Security Ruling 16-3p; (4) and failed to state adequate reasons for finding
claimant’s testimony to be not credible. Upon review of the record, the court
concludes that claimant’s argument about Listing 12.05C has merit.
Listing 12.05C, addressing intellectual disability, states as follows:
Intellectual disability. Intellectual disability refers to significantly
subaverage general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive
functioning initially manifested during the developmental period; i.e.,
the evidence demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before
The required level of severity for this disorder is met when the
requirements in A, B, C, or D are satisfied.
A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through
70 and a physical or other mental impairment imposing an additional
and significant work-related limitation of function. . . .
20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, appx. 1, § 12.05C (listings) (italics in original, ellipses
There is no question that claimant experienced impairments, other than
intellectual disability, that caused significant work-related limitations of function.
Indeed, the ALJ found that claimant’s attention deficit disorder, history of substance
abuse, and bipolar disorder were severe impairments.3 Thus, the focus of the ALJ’s
analysis, and of the parties’ arguments, has been on claimant’s IQ scores and adaptive
The ALJ found that claimant did not satisfy Listing 12.05C because he did not
have a valid IQ score between 60 and 70.4 Larry F. Wood, Ph.D., a consultative
psychologist, examined claimant on April 3, 2006, when claimant was 15 years old,
in connection with a prior claim.
Intelligence testing resulted in a verbal
comprehension IQ score of 87, a perceptual reasoning IQ score of 65, a working
Effective September 3, 2013, the Social Security
Administration replaced the term mental retardation with the term
intellectual disability as a listed impairment. Change in Terminology:
“Mental Retardation” to “Intellectual Disability,” 78 Fed. Reg.
46,499, 46,4501 (Aug. 1, 2013) (to be codified at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404,
subpt. P, app. 1). This change was made because “the term ‘mental
retardation’ has negative connotations,” and “has become offensive
to many people.” Id. at 46,499. But this change “d[id] not affect the
actual medical definition of the disorder or available programs or
services.” Id. at 49,500.
Frame v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration, 596 F. App’x 908, 910 n.2 (11th Cir. 2015)
(alteration in original).
memory IQ score of 68, a processing speed IQ score of 70, and a full scale IQ score
of 68. Dr. Wood believed that those test results were valid.5 He stated that claimant’s
performance on intellectual testing was generally consistent with
previous test results. His current level of intellectual functioning is at
the high end of the Mild Mental Retardation[ range], but he displayed
a significant range of abilities across subtests. He has relatively good
verbal skills with much lower visual-motor, perceptual, and processing
skills. He certainly would benefit from continuing enrollment in
specialized educational resources. He should be able to learn simple and
repetitive job tasks, but will need specific vocational training to
maximize his abilities.
Tr. 423 (alteration supplied). When addressing whether claimant had exhibited a
lifelong history of mental retardation, Dr. Wood stated that claimant
has been seen as functioning in the Borderline range of intellectual
ability most of his life. Currently, his tested intellectual ability is at the
high end of the Mild Mental Retardation range. He should be able to
learn simple job tasks, but will need specialized academic and job
Upon examination by Dana K. Davis, Ph.D., another consultative psychological
examiner, on August 19, 2008, claimant received a verbal IQ score of 69, a
performance IQ score of 78, and a full scale IQ score of 71.6 Dr. Davis stated:
The client’s effort on this exam was good, and these results are
felt to be a good estimate of his current intellectual functioning. They
are also extremely consistent with the testing using the WISC instrument
approximately four years ago, where his full-scale IQ fell within the
borderline range. I will note that the client does have relatively poor
mathematic skills, with that being his lowest subtest, and he has
relatively low comprehension skills as well as a paucity of fund of
David R. Wilson, Ph.D., a consultative examiner, administered intelligence
testing on October 6, 2014. Claimant achieved a verbal comprehension score of 80,
a perceptual reasoning score of 69, a working memory score of 71, a processing
speed of 74, and a full scale IQ score of 69. Dr. Wilson acknowledged that
claimant’s full scale IQ score placed him within the “Intellectually Disabled Range,”
but he believed that claimant’s lack of attention was a factor in his “very poor
performance.”7 Specifically, Dr. Wilson believed claimant “was trying, but he also
was impulsive and tended to answer without a lot of thought, and he also would tend
to guess or say ‘I can’t’ as items became difficult. He clearly has a problem
maintaining focus and effort.”8
The ALJ found that any of claimant’s IQ scores below 70 were not valid
because they were “inconsistent with school records.”9 The ALJ did not explain
which “school records” she was referring to, but she presumably was considering two
intelligence tests ordered and administered by the school systems while claimant was
still a student. The first such test, which was administered in February of 1999, while
claimant was in primary school, resulted in a verbal IQ score of 81, a performance IQ
score of 82, and a full scale IQ score of 80.10
The second test, which was
administered in January of 2005, while claimant was in 7th grade, resulted in a verbal
IQ score of 75, a performance IQ score of 81, and a full scale IQ score of 76.11
The mere existence of inconsistent scores from claimant’s school days does not
necessarily mean his later scores are invalid. Without any explanation from the ALJ
of the reasons for and importance of that inconsistency, the court cannot say that the
ALJ’s decision was adequately explained and supported by substantial evidence.
Further development of the record is required to determine the validity of claimant’s
Further development of the record also is necessary with regard to claimant’s
adaptive functioning. The ALJ’s only finding on adaptive functioning was a statement
that “[a]daptive skills are noted to be normal.”12 To support that statement, the ALJ
cited the results of two “CAB (Clinical Assessment of Behavior) Parent Extended
Form Reports” completed by claimant’s grandparents on November 12 and November
Tr. 18 (alteration supplied).
16, 2007, when claimant was 17 years old and in the 8th grade. According to the
grandmother’s assessment, claimant demonstrated mild adaptive weaknesses in social
skills and competence, and he fell within the normal range of “adaptive behaviors.”13
According to the grandfather’s assessment, claimant demonstrated mild adaptive
weaknesses in social skills, competence, and “adaptive behaviors.”14 Those records
simply do not support the ALJ’s finding about claimant’s adaptive functioning.
Moreover, the record as a whole contains sufficient evidence of adaptive functioning
to warrant further consideration.
The decision of the Commissioner is REVERSED, and this action is
REMANDED to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration for further
consideration of claimant’s IQ scores and adaptive functioning, and for any other
necessary proceedings consistent with this order.15
The Clerk of Court is directed to close this file.
DONE this 15th day of June, 2017.
United States District Judge
Because remand is warranted on these grounds, the court need not consider claimant’s
other arguments in support of remand.
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