Lee v. Astrue
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED and this action be DISMISSED. Signed by Magistrate Judge Bert W. Milling, Jr on 5/10/2012. (srr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CALVIN ALPHONSE LEE,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE,
Commissioner of Social Security,:
CIVIL ACTION 11-0600-M
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
In this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3),
Plaintiff seeks judicial review of an adverse social security
ruling which denied claims for disability insurance benefits and
Supplemental Security Income (hereinafter SSI) (Docs. 1, 12).
The parties filed written consent and this action has been
referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge to conduct all
proceedings and order the entry of judgment in accordance with
28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 (see Doc. 18).
argument was waived in this action (Doc. 17).
consideration of the administrative record and the memoranda of
the parties, it is ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner
be AFFIRMED and that this action be DISMISSED.
This Court is not free to reweigh the evidence or
substitute its judgment for that of the Secretary of Health and
Human Services, Bloodsworth v. Heckler, 703 F.2d 1233, 1239
(11th Cir. 1983), which must be supported by substantial
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
substantial evidence test requires "that the decision under
review be supported by evidence sufficient to justify a
reasoning mind in accepting it; it is more than a scintilla, but
less than a preponderance."
Brady v. Heckler, 724 F.2d 914, 918
(11th Cir. 1984), quoting Jones v. Schweiker, 551 F.Supp. 205
(D. Md. 1982).
At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff was
fifty-three years old, had completed one year of college (Tr.
43), and had previous work experience as a maintenance worker,
forklift operator, industrial truck operator, and ripsaw
operator (Tr. 45, 54).
In claiming benefits, Plaintiff alleges
disability due to mental impairments, osteoarthritis, and
arthralgia (Doc. 12 Fact Sheet).
The Plaintiff filed protective applications for disability
insurance and SSI on January 29, 2008 (Tr. 115-25; see Tr. 19).
Benefits were denied following a hearing by an Administrative
Law Judge (ALJ) who determined that although he could not
perform his past relevant work, there were medium exertional
jobs which Lee could perform (Tr. 19-30).
review of the hearing decision (Tr. 15) by the Appeals Council,
but it was denied (Tr. 1-7).
Plaintiff claims that the opinion of the ALJ is not
supported by substantial evidence.
Specifically, Lee alleges
(1) The ALJ failed to properly consider his mental
impairments; and (2) the ALJ did not properly assess Lee’s
residual functional capacity (Doc. 12).
Defendant has responded
to—and denies—these claims (Doc. 13).
Plaintiff first claims that the ALJ failed to properly
consider his mental impairments.
More specifically, Lee asserts
that the ALJ did not properly consider GAF scores in the record
(Doc. 12, pp. 5-7).
In his decision, the ALJ stated the following:
The claimant has consistently had a GAF
score between 45 and 55 which is indicative
of moderate to serious symptoms; however,
the Administrative Law Judge notes that the
Commissioner has declined to endorse the GAF
scale for “use in the Social Security and
SSI disability programs,” and has indicated
that GAF scores have no “direct correlation
to the severity requirements of the mental
disorders listing.” See 65 Fed.Reg. 50746,
50764-65 (Aug. 21, 2000). Also see, DeBoard
v. Barnhart, No. 05-6854 (6th Cir. Dec. 15,
2006). Therefore, the underlying findings
of the medical and non-medical evidence are
found to be more relevant in determining the
claimant’s residual functional capacity than
a GAF score, which lacks reliability in
Lee admits that this is a correct statement of the
law, but argues that the ALJ “misapplies it to the evaluation of
claimant’s mental impairments” (Doc. 12, p. 6).
on to assert that “the ALJ failed to offer any insight into his
consideration of Mr. Lee’s GAF scores or the weight given them”
(id. at p. 7).
The Court notes that the ALJ made the following specific
findings with regard to Plaintiff’s mental impairments:
Finally, the claimant has been
diagnosed with and treated for depressive
disorder, personality disorder, and history
of substance abuse (Exhibit 14F). He is
treated for these impairments primarily at
the Department of Veteran’s Affairs
Hospital. Treatment includes medication and
psychotherapy. Treatment notes show that
the claimant reported effective symptoms
resolution with the present regimen of
psychiatric medicines with no reported side
effects (Exhibit 10F-81). Additionally, the
record shows that the claimant participates
in therapy. The claimant’s drug use has
been in sustained remission outside of
controlled environment since his release
from prison (Exhibit 13F-6). Overall, the
medical evidence of record shows that
treatment is effective at controlling the
claimant’s mental impairments. Although the
claimant is usually treated for his mental
impairments at the Department of Veteran’s
Affairs Hospital, the record was
supplemented by a consultative examination
conducted by D. Kent Welsh, Ph.D. (Exhibit
5F). At the consultative examination, the
claimant reported feeling sad and withdrawn
and had a low energy level. Based on his
examination of the claimant, Dr. Welsh
confirmed the diagnosis of depressive
disorder, personality disorder, and history
of substance abuse. As previously
discussed, the evidence of record
demonstrates that the claimant has mild
limitations in activities of daily living;
moderate limitations in social functioning
and concentration, persistence or pace; and
has experienced no episodes of
decompensation of extended duration. The
record as a whole supports a finding that
the claimant has the ability to understand,
recall, and carry out short simple
instructions and to attend to such tasks for
two hour intervals.
Routine contact with
the general public should not be a usual job
assignment. Finally, changes in the work
routine should be infrequent. In other
words, as a result of his mental
impairments, the claimant is limited to
The Court notes that Plaintiff has not complained that the
ALJ’s summary of this medical evidence was faulty.
Lee has not directed this Court to any medical evidence, except
for the GAF scores, which he asserts has been ignored.
above, however, the ALJ did not ignore the results; he rejected
them for other record evidence.
In light of these findings, the
Court concludes that the ALJ has properly rejected the GAF
evidence by pointing to other, better evidence of Lee’s
abilities in spite of his mental impairments.
otherwise is without merit.
Lee also claims that the ALJ did not properly assess his
residual functional capacity (hereinafter RFC).
specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the RFC is not supported by
the assessment of an examining or treating physician (Doc. 12,
The Court notes that the ALJ is responsible for
determining a claimant=s RFC.
20 C.F.R. ' 404.1546 (2011).
The ALJ determined that Lee had the RFC
to perform work at a medium exertional level
as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(c)1 and
416.967(c). He has the ability to
understand, recall, and carry out short
simple instructions and to attend to such
tasks for two hour intervals. Routine
contact with the general public should not
be a usual job assignment. Finally, changes
in the work routine should be infrequent.
(Tr. 24) (footnote added).
As explanation for this conclusion,
the ALJ summarized the medical evidence relating to Plaintiff’s
“Medium work involves lifting no more than 50 pounds at a time
with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to 25 pounds.
If someone can do medium work, we determine that he or she can also do
impairments, including degenerative joint disease of both knees
and the acromioclavicular joint, lumbar strain, sciatica,
obesity, depressive disorder, personality disorder, history of
substance abuse, and his musculoskeletal impairments (Tr. 2527); Lee has not challenged the ALJ’s representation of the
evidence and has not directed this Court’s attention to any
The ALJ found that Plaintiff’s own testimony
was not credible (Tr. 27), a conclusion not challenged by Lee in
The ALJ also correctly noted that no examining or
treating physicians had placed any limitations on Plaintiff’s
physical abilities (Tr. 27).
Though Lee argues that the ALJ has
no medical basis for the RFC assessment reached in this action,
he has pointed to nothing which disputes or contradicts it.
Court cannot say that the ALJ’s decision is not supported by
Plaintiff has raised two claims in bringing this action.
Both are without merit.
Upon consideration of the entire
record, the Court finds "such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Perales, 402 U.S. at 401.
Therefore, it is ORDERED that the
Secretary's decision be AFFIRMED, see Fortenberry v. Harris, 612
sedentary and light work.”
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(c) (2011).
F.2d 947, 950 (5th Cir. 1980), and that this action be
Judgment will be entered by separate Order.
DONE this 10th day of May, 2012.
s/BERT W. MILLING, JR.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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