Hackett v. Social Security Administration
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER. The final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed and Hackett's 2 Complaint is dismissed, with prejudice. Signed by Magistrate Judge J. Thomas Ray on 8/1/2016. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
REGENOLD HACKETT, JR.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Social Security Administration
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER
Regenold Hackett (“Hackett”) applied for social security disability benefits
with an alleged disability onset date of April 1, 2007. (R. at 114). The
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) heard Hackett’s case and found him not to be
disabled. (R. at 11). The Appeals Council denied review, rendering the ALJ’s
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 1). Hackett has requested
For the reasons stated below, this Court1 affirms the ALJ’s decision.
The Commissioner’s Decision
The ALJ found that Hackett had the severe impairments of borderline
intellectual functioning, mood disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. (R. at
13). After considering the record, the ALJ found that Hackett had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform work at all exertional levels, but with
The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge. Doc. 4.
nonexertional limits restricting Hackett to unskilled work where: interpersonal
contact is incidental to the work performed; the complexity of tasks is learned and
performed by rote, involves few variables, and requires little independent
judgment; and supervision is simple, direct, and concrete. (R. at 19). Hackett had
no past relevant work. (R. at 26). With testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ
found that Hackett could work in jobs such as industrial cleaner or warehouse
worker. (R. at 27). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Hackett was not disabled.
(R. at 28).
Hackett argues that the evidence in the record does not support the ALJ’s
RFC determination. He contends that his mental health issues preclude him from
engaging in any substantial gainful activity.
The Court reviews the record to determine whether substantial evidence on
the record as a whole supports the Commissioner’s decision. Prosch v. Apfel, 201
F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). The Court will affirm the Commissioner’s
decision if there is evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to
support the Commissioner’s decision. Shannon v. Chater, 54 F.3d 484, 486 (8th
Cir. 1995). Even if substantial evidence would support an opposite decision, as
long as the ALJ’s decision is also supported by substantial evidence, it must be
affirmed. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009).
In early 2007, Hackett received diagnoses of depressive disorder and
oppositional defiant disorder. (R. at 465). For a number of months thereafter, he
received treatment for those problems. (R. at 370-465). Despite his satisfaction
with treatment and seeing some improvement, he terminated services on
September 20, 2007. (R. at 371).
The record shows no more treatment for psychological issues until August
16, 2010, when he underwent a mental diagnostic examination at the behest of the
Social Security Administration. (R. at 481). The examiner noted that Hackett did
not appear to give full effort during the examination, which caused the examiner to
conclude that Hackett’s intelligence test results were not valid due to his lack of
effort. (R. at 482-83). Hackett claimed to have bipolar disorder but took no
medication for it and had not refilled prescriptions for a mood disorder. (R. at 484).
The examiner assigned a global assessment of functioning score (“GAF score”) of
43, but she also noted that malingering was possible due to Hackett not giving full
effort. (R. at 484–85).
Hackett later reported that he felt better after starting medication. (R. at 506).
He also reported a decrease in anger control problems and in mood swings after
treatment and beginning medication. (R. at 492). Impairments that can be
controlled with medication are not considered disabling. Turpin v. Colvin, 750 F.3d
989, 993 (8th Cir. 2014). Notably, Hackett denied any feelings of depression or
thoughts of self-harm when seeking medical attention on numerous occasions. (R.
at 540, 551, 567, 581, 595, 608, 618, 627, 644).
In arriving at his RFC determination, the ALJ discounted Hackett’s
credibility. The ALJ noted in the decision that Hackett appeared to present his
mental condition better during treatment as opposed to his presentation when being
evaluated for disability. (R. at 24). The medical records provide support for the
ALJ’s observation. The ALJ also observed that Hackett’s low earnings history and
the medical record indicate a lack of motivation to work. (R. at 25). Hackett’s
earnings records are negligible. (R. at 239–40). Hackett testified that he could not
get along with an employer because he always felt that whatever an employer
offered to pay him was inadequate. (R. at 42-43). The Court defers to the ALJ’s
credibility determination when it is supported by good reasons and substantial
evidence. Turpin, 750 F.3d at 993. The ALJ provided good reasons for discounting
Hackett’s credibility, and substantial evidence supports that determination.
Finally, Hackett argues that the ALJ erred by not giving greater weight to his
history of low GAF scores. A history of low GAF scores cannot be ignored and
can indicate that a claimant cannot engage in substantial gainful activity. PateFires v. Astrue, 564 F.3d 935, 944 (8th Cir. 2009). However, Hackett’s GAF
scores must be weighed against the evidence of malingering, lack of motivation to
work, and the other objective medical evidence, including Hackett’s failure to seek
treatment or maintain a course of medication that—by all accounts—helped to
control his impairments. The GAF scores alone do not overcome the substantial
evidence supporting the ALJ’s RFC determination, which accounted for Hackett’s
social difficulties by limiting him to unskilled work where: interpersonal contact is
incidental to the work performed; the complexity of tasks is learned by rote,
involves few variables, and requires little independent judgment; and supervision is
simple, direct, and concrete. (R. at 19).
While there is no doubt that Hackett suffers from social and psychological
difficulties, the record supports the ALJ’s conclusion that that these impairments
do not rise to the level of disability.
It is not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an
independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision of the ALJ because there
is evidence in the record which contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole which supports the decision of the
ALJ. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2015). The Court has reviewed
the entire record, including the briefs, the ALJ's decision, and the transcript of the
hearing. The Court concludes that the record as a whole contains ample evidence
that "a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support [the] conclusion" of
the ALJ in this case. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). The Court
further concludes that the ALJ's decision is not based on legal error.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the final decision of the Commissioner
is affirmed and Hackett’s Complaint is DISMISSED, WITH PREJUDICE.
DATED this 1st day of August, 2016.
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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