Hogan v. Social Security Administration

Filing 19

ORDER affirming the decision of the Commissioner and dismissing this case with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge Beth Deere on 7/1/2015. (jak)

Download PDF
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS JONESBORO DIVISION TRACY HOGAN V. PLAINTIFF NO. 3:14CV156-BD CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT ORDER Oral argument hearing was held on June 11, 2015. Following a review of the record and arguments presented by counsel, the Court announced its findings of fact and conclusions of law, affirming the Commissioner’s decision. Based on the record as a whole, there was sufficient evidence to support the decision that Ms. Hogan was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act as of the time of the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. An excerpted transcript with detailed findings and conclusions is attached. Accordingly, the decision of the Commissioner is affirmed, and the case is hereby dismissed, with prejudice. So ordered, this 1st day of July, 2015. ___________________________________ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 1 of 10 1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS JONESBORO DIVISION 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 TRACY HOGAN, . . PLAINTIFF, . . VS. . . SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION . . COMMISSIONER, . . DEFENDANT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Docket No. 3:14-CV-00156-BD Little Rock, Arkansas June 11, 2015 9:59 A.M. 10 11 12 TRANSCRIPT OF 13 EXCERPTED ORAL FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW 14 IN ORAL ARGUMENT HEARING 15 BEFORE THE HONORABLE BETH DEERE 16 UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 17 18 19 ELECTRONIC COURT RECORDER-OPERATOR: Ms. Suzy Flippen 20 21 22 Transcription Service: Robin Warbritton Post Office Box 262 Vilonia, AR 72173 (501) 796-6560 23 24 PROCEEDINGS RECORDED BY ELECTRONIC SOUND RECORDING. 25 TRANSCRIPT PRODUCED BY TRANSCRIPTION SERVICE. Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 2 of 10 2 1 APPEARANCES: 2 For the Plaintiff: Mr. Greg Wallace C/O Bartels Law Firm Post Office Box 1640 Jonesboro, AR 72403-1640 For the Defendant: Ms. Angeline S. Reese Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel 1301 Young Street Suite A702 Dallas, TX 75202-5433 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 3 of 10 3 P R O C E E D I N G S 1 (Call to order of the Court.) 2 * * * 3 THE COURT: 4 All right. Then I'm ready to rule in 5 this case unless there is something I have -- anybody wants to 6 add. So, these are my findings and conclusions. 7 8 jurisdiction is proper. 9 procedural prerequisites have been satisfied. First, There is no dispute, all the The parties 10 have consented to my jurisdiction, so it's appropriate for me 11 to rule. 12 I have reviewed the parties' briefs, the ALJ's 13 decision, all of those portions of the record the parties have 14 cited, in addition to other parts of the record that I've 15 reviewed, including the entire transcript of the hearing 16 before the ALJ. 17 Standard of review is well settled; is there 18 sufficient evidence, considering the record as a whole, to 19 support the Commissioner's decision, and second, is there any 20 legal error? 21 Ms. Hogan is appealing the Commissioner's finding 22 that she was not disabled. 23 denied her request for review, the ALJ's April 15, 2013 24 decision is deemed the Commissioner's final decision. 25 And because the Appeal's Counsel She applied for disability benefits on October 14, Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 4 of 10 4 1 2011; first, alleging an onset date of January 1, 2001 -- 2007 2 -- excuse me -- but later amending the onset date to October 3 14, 2011. 4 The ALJ followed the five-step analysis that ALJ's 5 use in every case. 6 impairments; carpel tunnel syndrome of the upper left 7 extremity, joint pain, lumbago, tremors, depression, anxiety 8 disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and polysubstance 9 abuse in remission. 10 He did find that Ms. Hogan had severe Based on these impairments, as well as non-severe 11 impairments, the ALJ found that Ms. Hogan could perform a 12 reduced range of light work. 13 impairments, the ALJ limited her to jobs that would require no 14 more than frequent reaching and handling with her left non- 15 dominant hand and wrist. 16 to climb ladders or scaffolds and could not be exposed to 17 unrestricted heights. 18 To accommodate her physical In addition, she would not be able To accommodate her mental impairments, the ALJ 19 limited Ms. Hogan to performing simple unskilled or rote 20 activities and to understanding, following, and remembering 21 concrete instructions. 22 requiring only limited contact with the public, superficial 23 contact with coworkers and supervisors. 24 25 He further limited her to jobs Ms. Hogan had no past relevant work, but a Vocational Expert identified jobs that are available in sufficient Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 5 of 10 5 1 numbers that a person with Ms. Hogan's limitations could 2 perform. Ms. Hogan raises several points on appeal. 3 She 4 challenges the ALJ's Residual Functional Capacity 5 determination. 6 primarily on her mental impairments. 7 going to say there's not a serious argument that the ALJ erred 8 with respect to her physical limitations. 9 some of those in her argument today, they're not seriously Her appeal focused primarily -- focuses And there's not a -- I'm Although she raises 10 challenged in her brief. And I'm -- to me, it's clear that 11 the limitations set out by the ALJ adequately accommodate her 12 physical limitations; that is, her carpel tunnel syndrome and 13 her tremors, as well as her joint pain, lumbago. 14 she's limited to a reduced range of light work according to 15 the ALJ. She's -- So, turning to her mental impairments, she makes 16 17 three general arguments. First, that the ALJ did not 18 adequately consider all of the medical opinions of the 19 consulting psychologist, Mary Ellen Zeoco, who is a Ph.D. 20 psychologist. 21 2011. 22 considered, according to Ms. Hogan, are her opinions that Ms. 23 Hogan, and I'm quoting here: Dr. Zeoco examined Ms. Hogan on December 20th, That part of her opinion that the ALJ should have 24 "Might sometimes have some 25 difficulty sustaining Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 6 of 10 6 1 concentration on basic tasks due 2 to emotional distress." End quote. 3 That she, quote: 4 "Might have some difficulty 5 sustaining persistence in 6 completing tasks due to emotional 7 distress." End quote. 8 And also that she, quote: "Might have some difficulty 9 10 completing work-like tasks within 11 an acceptable time frame." 12 End quote. 13 Again, Ms. Hogan argues that the ALJ should have 14 given more weight to not only these opinions, but also to the 15 Global Assessment Functioning score, or sometimes we shorthand 16 that to GAF, the GAF Score of 45, which is -- is extremely 17 low. 18 Her second general argument is that the ALJ's 19 credibility determination was flawed. 20 she cites her long history of treatment and prescription 21 medications. 22 the state agency doctor, who did not examine Ms. Hogan, and 23 that would be Dr. Kevin Santulli, who is also a Ph.D. 24 psychologist. 25 And in support of that, She argues that the ALJ put too much reliance on And her third general argument is that the ALJ should Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 7 of 10 7 1 have more fully developed the record if he found that Dr. 2 Zeoco's report was vague and ambiguous. I do find that substantial evidence supports the 3 4 ALJ's decision. 5 Zeoco's opinions were based heavily on Ms. Hogan's subjective 6 complaints is accurate. 7 the history that Ms. Hogan herself gives. 8 out that Dr. Zeoco's opinion was reviewed by another 9 psychologist, as I've said, Dr. Kevin Santulli. 10 His -- first of all, his observation that Dr. A large part of her report repeats And I would point So he had the benefit of Dr. Zeoco's report when he fashioned his opinion. I do think it's important to note that Dr. Zeoco also 11 12 noted that Ms. Hogan's activities of daily living, that 13 included she drives, she has a driver's license, she completes 14 activities of daily living without assistance, except that her 15 15 year old apparently helps her put on makeup because of her 16 tremors. 17 communicates in an effective and intelligible manner. 18 able to cope with the typical cognitive demands of basic work- 19 like activities, manages her own funds. 20 is logical, relevant, goal orient -- goal directed. 21 with her mother and three of her five children, since 22 separating from what sounds like her no-account husband. 23 She communicates in a socially adequate manner, She's Her thought process She lives So, I think that there was no necessity for the ALJ 24 to ask Dr. Zeoco to clarify her opinion. The opinion about 25 possible problems were so speculative, including words like Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 8 of 10 8 1 "They might sometimes; she might sometimes have some 2 difficulty." 3 that she would have those problems. 4 That's really not enough to support a finding Ms. Hogan herself testified at the hearing about her 5 activities of daily living and testified that she helps get 6 her children ready for school, she does laundry, picks up 7 around the house, cooks some, helps her children with their 8 homework, and puts them to bed after they have bathed and 9 gotten ready for bed. 10 The ALJ was not required to adopt every part of the 11 opinion of this consulting doctor, psychologist, who saw her 12 only once. 13 controlling weight to that one GAF score of 45. 14 DSM, which is DSM-5, has eliminate -- has eliminated the use 15 of GAF scores, in part, because of their, quote: And he certainly was not required to give 16 "Conceptual lack of clarity and 17 questionable psychometrics and 18 The current routine practice." 19 20 21 Moreover, the Social Security regs make it clear that GAF scores are not dispositive. The ALJ also properly took into account 22 inconsistencies in Ms. Hogan's testimony. You know, in spite 23 of her testimony about these disabling tremors, the ALJ 24 observed no tremors at the time of the hearing. 25 time of the hearing, she had not been to see her primary care And at the Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 9 of 10 9 1 doctor for approximately five months. And there's no record 2 of her ever seeking treatment for her mental health problems 3 except her visits to her primary care physician. Other inconsistencies are in the record. 4 She refers 5 to lupus causing memory problems, but there's no diagnosis of 6 lupus that I found anywhere in the record. The ALJ also properly noted her poor work history, 7 8 although I don't put a lot of -- a lot of weight on that, she 9 is 32 years old and had five children, she didn't have much 10 opportunity to find work. So, I'm not particularly dwelling 11 on that, although that is something that ALJs can properly 12 consider. And again, her lack of mental health treatment. So, because of all of this, I think that the ALJ 13 14 adequately accommodated all of her mental impairments that are 15 fairly supported by the record. So, I find no legal error. 16 And for the reasons we've 17 just discussed, I find there's substantial evidence to support 18 the decision here that Ms. Hogan was not disabled within the 19 meaning of the Social Security Act as of the time of the 20 hearing. 21 side, I don't find that this is really a very close case. 22 There is ample evidence here to support the decision. 23 Although there is certainly evidence on the other So, we will have a transcript of the findings and 24 conclusions prepared. And that will be attached to an order. 25 That will take a couple of weeks or so. Case 3:14-cv-00156-BD Document 18 Filed 06/25/15 Page 10 of 10 10 1 I do want to thank the lawyers. Professor Wallace 2 always makes an excellent argument and makes the most out of 3 the record. 4 to -- that he could work with in this case. 5 Ms. Reese from the Social Security Administration. 6 very good job, as well. There just was not much of a record in this case 7 So, if there's nothing further. 8 MR. WALLACE: 9 MS. REESE: 10 Also, thanks to You did a We are adjourned. Thank you, Your Honor. Thank you, Judge. (Adjournment at 10:36 a.m.) 11 ELECTRONIC SOUND RECORDING CERTIFICATION: 12 I, court approved transcriber, certify that the foregoing is a 13 correct transcript from the official electronic sound 14 recording of the proceedings in the above-entitled matter. 15 16 /s/Robin Warbritton Signature of Approved Transcriber 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Robin Warbritton Typed or Printed Name June 25, 2015 Date

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?