Stobaugh v. Social Security Administration
ORDER affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 11/19/2013. (rhm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
JACQUELINE A. STOBAUGH
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner,
Social Security Administration
Stobaugh last worked regularly as a convenience store clerk. Two
months after she was fired, Stobaugh applied for disability benefits based on
major depressive disorder, anxiety, agoraphobia, and post traumatic stress
disorder. The Commissioner's ALJ identified mood disorders as severe
impairments, and determined Stobaugh can work on simple, routine,
repetitive tasks, with incidental contact with co-workers and no contact with
the public. Because a vocational expert identified available work, the ALJ
determined Stobaugh is not disabled and denied the application. Stobaugh
appeals. The Court must decide whether, after considering supporting and
contrary evidence, substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
decision. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010,1012 (8th Cir. 2000). Stobaugh raises
many issues. Her arguments, though, provide no basis for relief.
1. The ALJ did not err by denying Stobaugh's request for a second
mental examination. An ALJ has a duty to fairly and fully develop the record
as to the matters at issue. Landess v. Weinberger,490 F.2d 1187,1189 (8th Cir.
1974). The ALJ fulfilled that duty by obtaining Stobaugh's treatment records,
ordering a mental diagnostic evaluation, and asking for expert opinions about
Stobaugh's ability to work. Although the psychological examiner did not
review Stobaugh's mental health treatment notes, the notes do not advance
her claim. They show inconsistent reports, which cast doubt on Stobaugh's
credibility. For example, Stobaugh told the psychological examiner that she
experienced sleep disturbance and nightmares; but she told her therapist that
psychotropic medications helped her sleep; and she denied nightmares. A
second examination was unnecessary because the ALJ had enough evidence
to determine whether Stobaugh was disabled. Barrett v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 1019,
1023 (8th Cir. 1994).
2. The ALJ's failure to discuss the severity of personality disorder
provides no basis for relief because Stobaugh met her burden to show a
severe impairment and her case proceeded to the next step of the disabilitydetermination process.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 156-57 (1987)
(O'Connor, J., concurring). Even if the ALJ should have discussed personality
disorder, no reversible error occurred because he considered all of the medical
evidence and all of Stobaugh's impairments.
3. Stobaugh's argument about meeting a listed impairment fails
because she does not meet all of a listing's specified criteria. Johnson v.
Barnhart, 390 F.3d 1067,1070 (8th Cir. 2004). Nothing in Stobaugh's treatment
records or the mental diagnostic evaluation reflects marked difficulties in
activities of daily living, social functioning, or concentration, persistence, or
pace. There is no evidence of decompensation. According to her treating
psychiatrist, Stobaugh does reasonably well on her medication.
4. Stobaugh's challenge to the ALJ' s determination about her ability to
work fails. A reasonable mind would accept the evidence as adequate to
show Stobaugh can work within the defined parameters. Stobaugh does
reasonably well with her psychotropic medications; her treating psychiatrist
concluded that most of Stobaugh's difficulties flowed from financial stress
and her living situation. The psychological examiner observed no specific
limitations with concentration, persistence, or completing work-like tasks.
The examiner concluded that, although "reported" difficulty with social
interaction could interfere with work to some degree, Stobaugh can cope with
the mental demands of work. In response, the ALJ limited work with coworkers and the public. To the extent Stobaugh maintains she cannot interact
appropriately with supervisors, the record points the other way. Stobaugh
told her psychiatrist that she lost many jobs "mainly for simply deciding to
quit or just not show up."
A reasonable mind would view these
circumstances as a matter of motivation, not troubled interactions with
5. The ALJ' s lack of discussion about obesity or degenerative disc
disease provides no basis for remand because no evidence shows those
conditions impair the ability to work. Stobaugh mentioned some physical
complaints in her agency papers, but the focus of her claim has always been
6. The use of the vocational expert's unsworn answers to written
interrogatories does not undermine the ALJ' s conclusion. An ALJ may rely
on responses to written interrogatories so long as the claimant receives due
process. Coffin v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1206,1212 (8th Cir. 1990). Stobaugh did.
The ALJ gave her a ten-day period to consider the expert's responses, and
committed to holding a supplemental hearing so Stobaugh could cross
examine the expert at Stobaugh's choice. She never asked for the follow-up
hearing. The ALJ's procedures in this case comported with due process.
Moreover, though not under oath, the vocational expert promised to tell the
* * *
The ALJ made no error of law. Substantial evidence supports the
decision denying benefits. The Court affirms.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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