Stark v. Commissioner of Social Security
ORDER re 3 Complaint filed by Leola A Stark: Reversed and remanded for further consideration in accordance with this opinion. Signed by Senior Judge Edward J McManus on 2/27/2014. (skm)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
CEDAR RAPIDS DIVISION
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF
No. 13cv43 EJM
Plaintiff brings this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner’s
denial of her application for social security disability income benefits and
supplemental security income benefits. Briefing concluded January 13, 2014.
The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 USC §405(g). Reversed and remanded
for further consideration.
Plaintiff claims disability due to cervical degenerative disc disease, bilateral
carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetes mellitus, hepatitis C, glaucoma, emphysema,
renal artery aneurysms, and mental health limitations.
She asserts the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) failed to accurately assess and weigh her physical
limitations and failed to sufficiently develop the record so as to properly asses her
mental health. Accordingly, she asserts that the Commissioner’s decision is not
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
[R]eview of the agency decision is limited to whether there is
substantial evidence on the record as a whole to support the
[Commissioner's] decision…Substantial evidence is less than a
preponderance, but enough so that a reasonable mind might find it
adequate to support the conclusion.
Robinson v. Sullivan, 956 F2d 836, 838 (8th Cir. 1992.)
The court finds that although the findings of the ALJ on the physical
limitations of the plaintiff are supported by the record, the record has not been
sufficiently developed as to the plaintiff’s mental disabilities, including the effects of
her substance abuse. The ALJ made a medical assessment that plaintiff is not
limited by her mental health. The ALJ acknowledges that plaintiff does have a
diagnosis of depression in the record, but nonetheless finds no disability on this
grounds, stating only that “it is unclear of the reliability of those statements and
their basis in mental/medical conditions other than her ongoing alcohol abuse.”
(TR 17.) This is a medical opinion of the ALJ and the record has no expert
medical opinion regarding plaintiff’s mental limitations to support it.
Sullivan, 956 F.2d 830, 834 (8th Cir. 1992). “[T[he RFC is ultimately a medical
question that must find at least some support in the medical evidence of record.”
Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 738 (8th Cir. 2004.) The Social Security
Administration provides within their regulations that a consultative examination
may be purchased in these circumstances, 20 C.F.R. § 416.919a(A)(b), and is
required when “[t]he additional evidence is not contained in the records of your
20 C.F.R. § 404.1519a(b)(1). There is no consultative
examination in this case, and there is no other support for such a finding on
plaintiff’s mental health. The ALJ could not have made an informed decision
circumstances without a consultative examination. Byound v. Sullivan, 960 F.2d
733, 736 (8th Cir. 1992).
Upon the foregoing, it is the court’s view that the record upon which the
Commissioner’s decision is based is not fully developed as to plaintiff’s mental
It is therefore
Reversed and remanded for further consideration in accordance with this
February 27, 2014.
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