Dixon v. Social Security Administration
ORDER affirming the decision of the Commissioner. The ALJ made no error of law. For these reasons, the Court denies 2 Complaint and affirms the decision denying Dixon's applications. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jerome T. Kearney on 8/6/2013. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Sheila Renee Dixon
Cause No. 3: 12‐CV‐207‐JTK
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER’S DECISION
Sheila Renee Dixon seeks judicial review of the denial of her application for
supplemental security income (SSI). Dixon received SSI as a child. The record suggests she
received SSI due to mental retardation and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.1
Dixon’s child SSI ceased when she turned 18. She then sought adult SSI. Her efforts to
obtain adult SSI involve two applications. The applications were consolidated at the
The Commissioner’s decision. After considering Dixon’s applications, the
Commissioner’s ALJ determined that although Dixon a had severe impairment —
personality disorder2 — she could do unskilled work.3 Because a vocational expert
SSA record at p. 200 (SSA childhood disability evaluation form listing mental
retardation and ADHD as symptoms for initial claim).
Id. at p. 271.
Id. at p. 273 (determining Dixon could work at all exertional levels, except that
she must work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; the
complexity of tasks is learned by rote, few variables, little judgment; and supervision
required is simple, direct and concrete).
identified work Dixon can do,4 the ALJ determined Dixon was not disabled under the
Social Security Act.5
After the Commissioner’s Appeals Council denied a request for review, the ALJ’s
decision became a final decision for judicial review.6 Dixon filed this case to challenge the
decision. In reviewing the decision, the court must determine whether substantial evidence
supports the decision and whether the ALJ made a legal error.7
Mental retardation. Dixon’s primary argument is that she meets listing 12.05C.8
That listing applies to mental retardation. To meet listing 12.05C, Dixon must satisfy all
Id. at p. 840‐41 (identifying kitchen helper, laundry worker, and cafeteria
attendant as available jobs).
Id. at p. 278.
See Anderson v. Sullivan, 959 F.2d 690, 692 (8th Cir. 1992) (stating that “the Social
Security Act precludes general federal subject matter jurisdiction until administrative
remedies have been exhausted” and explaining that Commissioner’s appeal procedure
permits claimants to appeal only final decisions).
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (requiring district court to determine whether
Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether
Commissioner conformed with applicable regulations); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187
(8th Cir. 1997) (“We will uphold the Commissioner’s decision to deny an applicant
disability benefits if the decision is not based on legal error and if there is substantial
evidence in the record as a whole to support the conclusion that the claimant was not
Docket entry # 13, pp. 11‐18.
of specified criteria.9 Relevant here, meeting the listing requires: “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.”10 Dixon scored
below the required range during IQ testing,11 but the ALJ determined the scores were
Because no question exists about the presence of “a physical or other mental
impairment,” the question before the court is whether substantial evidence supports the
determination that Dixon’s scores were invalid.13 Substantial evidence exists if a reasonable
mind would accept the evidence as adequate to support the determination.14
A reasonable mind would accept the opinions of the examining/testing
psychologists as adequate to show Dixon’s scores were invalid. The first examiner
Johnson v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 1067, 1070 (8th Cir. 2004); Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S.
521, 530 (1990).
20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, § 12.05C (italics added).
SSA record at p. 169 (on Jan. 10, 2007, verbal IQ: 57, performance IQ: 54, full
scale IQ: 51) & p. 542 (on May 21, 2009: verbal IQ: 53, performance IQ: 54, full scale IQ:
Id. at p. 276 (determining scores were invalid due to malingering).
Clark v. Apfel, 141 F.3d 1253, 1255 (8th Cir. 1998) (“For purposes of our review,
… the question is whether the decision to disregard [IQ] scores as unreliable is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.”).
Britton v. Sullivan, 908 F.2d 328, 330 (8th Cir. 1990).
suspected exaggeration and reported that Dixon failed to do her best on IQ testing.15 The
examiner observed that Dixon scored lower at age 18 than she did at age 10.16 The
examiner reported that when asked how a piano and a drum were alike, Dixon said she
had never heard of them, and then went on to talk about trombones indicating she knew
they were musical instruments.17 The first examiner’s opinion indicates the scores were
The second examiner also suspected exaggeration.18 The examiner reported that
Dixon put forth very poor effort on intellectual testing.19 He explained that when shown
a picture of a table missing a leg, Dixon said she didn’t know what a table was, but
correctly cited a door knob missing from a door.20 The examiner considered the test scores
unreliable due to malingering.21 The second examiner’s opinion also indicates the scores
SSA record at pp. 170‐71.
See id. at p. 149 (IQ test scores at age 10, basic reading: 76, mathematics
reasoning: 61, spelling: 71, reading comprehension: 76, numerical operations: 76, written
Id. at p. 170.
Id. at p. 544 (characterizing Dixon’s presentation as “contrived and
Id. at p. 542.
Id. The ALJ asked Dixon if she knew what a table is; Dixon responded “yes.”
Id. at p. 838.
Id. at pp. 543‐44.
The examiners’ opinions served as an adequate basis for rejecting the test scores.22
Without valid scores, Dixon did not meet listing 12.05C. Although a person’s IQ is
presumed stable over time,23 Dixon’s scores were lower than her scores as a child. Dixon
undermined the presumption by failing to do her best during IQ testing,24 exaggerating her
limitations,25 and making inconsistent statements.26 The ALJ did not err.
Accord Clay v. Barnhart, 417 F.3d 922, 931 (8th Cir. 2005) (explaining that a
sufficient basis existed for rejecting IQ scores; “one was invalid by the tester’s own
admission, and the other was sufficiently suspect that the Commissioner was entitled to
disregard it notwithstanding the tester’s opinion that the scores were valid”).
Muncy v. Apfel, 247 F.3d 728, 734 (8th Cir. 2001) (“[A] a person’s IQ is presumed
to remain stable over time in the absence of any evidence of a change in a claimant’s
SSA record at p. 170 (“She didn’t appear to be doing her best in spite of
frequent encouragement to do so and exaggeration is suspected. … Her test results
were lower than her test results in the [childhood disability] records and the “mild”
retardation range is probably a better estimate of her level of intellectual functioning.”)
& p. 542 (reporting that Dixon’s scores were unreliable “due to her poor effort and
attempt to present herself in a bad light”).
See Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963, 973‐74 (8th Cir. 2010) (explaining that ALJ
could discount credibility of allegations of mental impairment given psychiatrist’s
comments about exaggeration; i.e., “It is difficult to evaluate her sincerity due to the
disability application and her probable dramatic exaggeration of anxiety.”).
Phillips v. Colvin, No. 12‐3265, 2013 WL 3822089, at *3 (8th Cir. July 25, 2013)
(explaining in a case where the claimant was disabled due to mental retardation as a
child, “Whether a claimant’s condition has improved is primarily a question for the trier
of fact, generally determined by assessing witnesses’ credibility.”) (to be published).
Compare SSA record at p. 541 (reporting daily use of marijuana on May 21, 2009), with id.
at p. 836 (testifying on Oct. 27, 2011 that she smoked marijuana once two or three years
Available work. Dixon also contends the ALJ failed to show work existed that she
can do because she maintains the hypothetical question did not include all of her
impairments.27 “A hypothetical question … is sufficient if it sets forth impairments
supported by substantial evidence in the record and accepted as true. The hypothetical
question must capture the concrete consequences of the claimant’s deficiencies.”28
The ALJ’s hypothetical question flowed from a mental RFC assessment. After
reviewing childhood disability evidence and the first examiner’s report,29 three medical
experts opined that Dixon can do basic work activities.30 The consultants determined
Dixon can work where interpersonal contact is incidental to the work performed; the
complexity of tasks is learned by rote, few variables, little judgment; and supervision
required is simple, direct and concrete. Although one of the experts reviewed the second
ago). Compare id. at p. 168 (reporting on Jan. 10, 2007 that she was supposed to graduate
from high school in May, but didn’t return to school after being suspended in March),
with id. at p. 243 (testifying on Dec. 4, 2008 that she didn’t graduate from high school
because she was in jail on graduation day) & id. at p. 540 (reporting on May 21, 2009
that she quit the 11th grade because they would not let me graduate).
Docket entry # 13, pp. 19‐21.
Perkins v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 892, 901‐02 (8th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations and
SSA record at p. 194‐95 (medical consultant case worksheet summarizing child
medical evidence and the first psychological examiner’s findings).
Id. at p. 178 (initial assessment on Feb. 26, 2007; assessment affirmed on Feb. 26,
2007) & p. 196 (assessment agreed with on Mar. 22, 2007).
examiner’s report and opined that Dixon had no significant mental impairment,31 a
reasonable mind would accept the initial assessment as adequate to capture the concrete
consequences of Dixon’s impairments. Thus, substantial evidence supports the
To the extent Dixon complains about the omission of particular examiner findings,
an ALJ need not “use specific diagnostic or symptomatic terms where other descriptive
terms can adequately define the claimant’s impairments.”32 The hypothetical question
captured the concrete consequences of Dixon’s impairments. The vocational expert
responded to the hypothetical question and identified available work.33 A vocational
expert’s testimony answering a properly phrased hypothetical question constitutes
substantial evidence.34 Thus, the ALJ’s decision is supported by substantial evidence.
Conclusion. Substantial evidence supports the Commissioner’s decision. The ALJ
made no error of law. For these reasons, the court DENIES the request for relief (docket
Id. at p. 557 (observing that second examiner reported malingering and daily
cannabis abuse and classifying the case as non‐severe).
Roe v. Chater, 92 F.3d 672, 676 (8th Cir. 1996).
SSA record at p. 840‐41 (identifying kitchen helper, laundry worker, and
cafeteria attendant as available jobs).
Hulsey v. Astrue, 622 F.3d 917, 922 (8th Cir. 2010) (“A vocational expert’s
testimony constitutes substantial evidence when it is based on a hypothetical that
accounts for all of the claimant’s proven impairments.”). Accord Partee v. Astrue, 638
F.3d 860, 865 (8th Cir. 2011).
entry # 2) and AFFIRMS the decision denying Dixon’s applications.
It is so ordered this 6th day of August, 2013.
United States Magistrate Judge
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