Gates v. Commissioner of Social Security
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS, granting 14 Motion to Affirm filed by Commissioner of Social Security, denying 11 Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Valerie Gates, 18 Report and Recommendations. This case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. A separate Final Judgment will issue this day. Signed by District Judge Kristi H. Johnson on 2/16/2021 (PG)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:19-CV-758-KHJ-JCG
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation of United States
Magistrate Judge John C. Gargiulo. .
Facts and Procedural History
Claimant Valerie Gates filed her Title XVI application for supplemental
security income on November 30, 2016 at age 29. . Gates alleged her disability
began about a year earlier. Id. The Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denied her claims. Id. Gates then filed a request for a hearing
before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). The ALJ heard her case and heard
testimony from both Gates and a vocational expert. Id. The ALJ denied her claims
on November 16, 2018.  at 13-22.
The next year, Gates requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ’s
decision. . The Appeals Council denied her request for review, so the ALJ’s
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. Having exhausted her
administrative remedies, Gates filed this action. .
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The Report recommends this Court deny Gates’ Motion for Summary
Judgment  and grant the Commissioner’s Motion to Affirm the Commissioner’s
Decision . Gates contends the ALJ’s findings on Listing 12.05(B)—which
provides certain criteria to establish an intellectual disorder—were not supported
by substantial evidence based on the consideration of her ability to “understand,
remember, or apply information” or to “interact with others.”  at 5-6. The
Commissioner and the Magistrate Judge disagree, noting the ALJ was responsible
for weighing the evidence and finding there was “substantial evidence supporting
the ALJ’s finding of only a moderate limitation” in each area. Id. at 7; 11.
Written objections to the Report were due February 4, 2021. The Report
notified the parties that failure to file written objections to the findings and
recommendations by that date would bar further appeal in accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 636. Id. Gates timely filed her Objections  and the Commissioner
responded  seven days later.
The Court reviews de novo the portions of the Magistrate’s Report to which
Gates objects, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), while the remaining portions are considered
under a “clearly erroneous, abuse of discretion and contrary to law” standard of
review. United States v. Wilson, 864 F.2d 1219, 1221 (5th Cir. 1989). The Court,
however, is not “required to reiterate the findings and conclusions of the magistrate
judge.” Koetting v. Thompson, 995 F.2d 37, 40 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing Nettles v.
Wainwright, 677 F.2d 404, 406-07 (5th Cir. Unit B 1982)).
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Gates raises one, two-part objection to the Magistrate’s Report. As for Listing
12.05(B), which provides the criteria for finding an intellectual disorder (see 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App’x 1 at § 12.05), Gates argues substantial evidence does
not support the ALJ’s finding of only a “moderate limitation” in “understanding,
remembering, or applying information” or “interacting with others.”  at 2-4.
Listing 12.05(B) provides that an intellectual disorder is established only if
the claimant meets all of the following medical criteria:
(1) a “significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning” as evidenced
by qualifying IQ scores;
(2) “significant deficits in adaptive functioning” manifested by “extreme
limitation of one, or marked limitation of two” of these “mental
a. ability to “understand, remember, or apply information,”
b. ability to “interact with others,”
c. ability to “concentrate, persist, or maintain pace,” or
d. ability to “adapt or manage oneself;” and
(3) the evidence concerning claimant’s “current intellectual and adaptive
functioning” and “history of disorder” supports a finding that the
impairment began prior to age 22.
20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App’x 1 at § 12.05; see also Sullivan v. Zebley, 493 U.S.
521, 530 (1990).
A. Understanding, Remembering, or Applying Information
The ALJ found Gates had only a moderate limitation in the category of
“understanding, remembering, or applying information,” meaning she had a “fair
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ability to function in these areas independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a
sustained basis.” . As long as substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s findings,
they “will not be disturbed.” McCaskill v. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., No. 1:14cv-24-HSO-RHW, 2015 WL 1457514, at *5 (S.D. Miss. Mar. 30, 2015), aff’d, 640 F.
App’x 331 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Boyd v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 698, 704 (5th Cir. 2001)). A
court cannot “re-weigh the evidence or substitute [its] judgment for that of the
Commissioner.” Boyd, 239 F.3d at 704.
The record reflects that when treated with an appropriate medical regimen
for her mental impairments, Gates showed “intact” “attention, concentration, and
memory.”  at 19. Although Gates had trouble keeping up with her medications,
“her records indicated medication compliance with regular follow-ups” and that she
reported to appointments “well-groomed and responding appropriately[.]”  at 7;
 at 17.
Gates also testified she believed she was unable to work because of her
“attention span” and because she does not “like dealing with people.”  at 36. But
she also testified her decreased attention span did not prevent her from being able
to “sweep,” “mop,” “do the dishes,” and “do [her] own laundry” at home. Id. In her
disability evaluation, Dr. Amy Baskin reported Gates did “not [have] significantly
limited” ability to carry out short, simple instructions and only had “moderately
limited” ability to maintain “attention and concentration for extended periods.” Id.
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The Magistrate Judge found that “although there is certainly some evidence
showing limitations in understanding, remembering, and applying information,”
substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s finding of “only a moderate limitation” in
this area.  at 9. Gates disagrees with the ALJ but has not pointed to any
objective evidence to contradict or undermine the ALJ’s findings. This Court will not
“re-weigh the evidence,” Boyd, 239 F.3d at 704, but instead, will adopt the
Magistrate Judge’s determination that Gates has a fair ability to understand,
remember, or apply information.
B. Interacting with Others
In the “interacting with others” category, too, the ALJ found Gates showed
only a “moderate” (rather than “marked” or “extreme”) limitation.  at 9.
“Interacting with others” concerns a claimant’s ability to “relate to and work with
supervisors, co-workers, and the public.” Id. at 7 (citing 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 1 at 12.00(E)(1)-(2).
The record supports the ALJ’s finding that Gates has no more than a
moderate limitation in this area. While Gates testified she “get[s] overwhelmed by
the people” when grocery shopping,  at 36, she also testified she traveled to a
family reunion in 2017 “on an airplane with no problems.” Id. at 16. Further, Gates
was hospitalized after an altercation with her uncle, but inpatient observation
revealed her mental status was “unremarkable,” and Gates was described as “calm
and cooperative.” Id. Finally, Gates was unable to keep her job at a chicken plant
because she “kept getting into fights with people.”  at 35. Dr. Baskin, however,
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opined she would likely function better in a “non-interpersonally intensive work
environment” and “would be capable of relating appropriately to coworkers and
supervisors.” Id. at 54.
Gates contends the Magistrate Judge should not have relied on Dr. Baskin or
vocational consultant Dwight Gilbert’s opinions because they were provided too
early in the adjudication process. But as the Commissioner points out, Gates has
showed no later evidence in the record contradicts “either Dr. Baskin’s assessment
of [Gates’] functional abilities or Mr. Gilbert’s finding of jobs [she] was capable of
preforming.”  at 2. This Court agrees with and adopts the Magistrate Judge’s
finding that Gates showed only a moderate limitation in the area of interacting with
others. This Court therefore adopts the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that
Gates’ Motion for Summary Judgment  should be denied and the
Commissioner’s Motion to Affirm the Commissioner’s Decision  should be
granted. The case will be dismissed with prejudice.
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Report and
Recommendation  of United States Magistrate Judge John C. Gargiulo, entered
in this cause should be, and the same is, adopted as is the finding of this Court on
the finding that Gates showed only a moderate limitation in understanding,
remembering, or applying information and interacting with others.
IT IS, FURTHER, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Gates’ Motion for
Summary Judgment  is DENIED, the Commissioner’s Motion to Affirm the
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Commissioner’s Decision  is GRANTED, and this case is DISMISSED WITH
A separate Final Judgment will issue this day.
SO ORDERED, this the 16th day of February, 2021.
s/ Kristi H. Johnson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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