Hainline v. Berryhill
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part Hainline's appeal. The court REMANDS this appeal for the ALJ to resolve the conflict between Dr. Nelson and Dr. Schwebach relating to Hainline's motor/perceptual limitations. Signed by Judge Dale A. Kimball on 10/31/2017. (eat)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH, CENTRAL DIVISION
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
Case No. 1:17-cv-00034
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
District Judge Dale A. Kimball
Shiloh Hainline (Hainline) filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
on July 9, 2010, alleging a disability beginning around May 5, 1991. Hainline’s claim was
denied on October 14, 2010, and was also denied upon reconsideration on March 1, 2011. A
hearing was held on October 1, 2012 before Administrative Law Judge Gilbert Martinez. The
ALJ issued a decision finding that Hainline is not disabled. Hainline appealed the ALJ’s decision
to the Appeals Council, which remanded the case back to the ALJ for further review. A remand
hearing was held on July 9, 2014. The ALJ again issued a decision finding that Hainline is not
disabled. The Appeals Council denied Hainline’s request for review. Hainline now appeals the
ALJ’s final decision finding that she is not disabled.
On October 16, 2017, the court held a hearing on Hainline’s appeal. At the hearing, the
appellant Hainline was represented by Natalie L. Bolli-Jones and the appellee was represented by
James L. Burgess. The court took the motion under advisement. Based on the briefing filed by
the parties and the law and facts relevant to the pending motion, the court issues the following
Memorandum Decision and Order GRANTING in part and DENYING in part Hainline’s appeal.
Hainline has an extensive medical history showing that she has many physical and mental
difficulties. At issue in this appeal is Hainline’s alleged motor/perceptual and social impairments.
Three medical professionals’ opinions relating to Hainline’s motor/perceptual impairments are at
issue in this appeal. Only the facts and opinions relevant to this appeal will be discussed.
In 2013, Hainline alleges1 that Dr. Knudsen performed a comprehensive physical exam
and determined that Hainline could perform, at best, light work with some limitations in her
ability to manipulate fine objects. The ALJ gave “great weight” to Dr. Knudsen’s medical
opinion. (See Administrative Record (A.R.) 57)).
A mental status exam was also performed by Adam Schwebach, Ph.D. at the
Neuropsychology Center of Utah. Dr. Schwebach determined that although Hainline had overall
average intellectual functioning, she struggles with executive functioning, particularly in the area
of planning, attention regulation, and problem solving. Dr. Schwebach tested Hainline’s
motor/perceptual abilities and based on the results placed her in the bottom one percentile. (A.R.
782). Dr. Schwebach also noted that she has significant difficulty in developing and maintaining
social relationships. Dr. Schwebach diagnosed her with anxiety disorder, autism spectrum
disorder, and attention deficit disorder. The ALJ gave “great weight” to Dr. Schwebach’s
neuropsychological evaluation. (A.R. 57).
Dr. Nelson performed a consultative examination. Dr. Nelson’s examination covered all
of Hainline’s alleged impairments. (A.R. 56). Dr. Nelson opined, in relevant part, that Hainline
has good hand-eye coordination and full strength. (A.R. 592). Dr. Nelson found that the claimant
could perform some forms of work. (A.R. 56). The ALJ gave “considerable weight” to Dr.
Nelson’s opinion. Id.
The word “alleges” is important because it is disputed whether Dr. Knudsen actually performed the
motor/perceptual testing that is at issue in this appeal.
Based on the medical opinions, the ALJ determined that Hainline has severe impairments
which include Asperger’s syndrome, seizures, asthma, obesity, and a hearing loss in her left ear.
The ALJ found that despite these health problems, Hainline can perform light work that exists in
the national economy. (A.R. 53).Specifically, the ALJ determined that Hainline can perform the
job of a laundry folder and an addressor. The ALJ therefore determined that Hainline is not
The ALJ determined that Hainline can perform light work with the following limitations:
She can understand, remember, and carry out short and simple instructions, and make simple
work-related decisions. She can interact with supervisors and co-workers, but should have only
brief and superficial interactive contact with the public. She can perform simple, routine, goaloriented work in a consistent stable environment, and no fast-paced work. The ALJ determined
that with Hainline’s residual functioning capacity she can perform work available in the national
economy. (A.R. 53).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The standard of review for an appeal of a Social Security determination is whether the
ALJ’s factual findings are supported by substantial evidence and whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards in determining disability. Winfrey v. Chater, 92 F.3d 1017, 1019 (10th
Cir. 1996). The court may consider the specific rules of law that the ALJ must follow in
weighing particular types of evidence, but will not reweigh the evidence or substitute its
judgment for the Commissioner’s. Reyes v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 242, 244 (10th Cir. 1988).
Hainline argues that the ALJ erred in evaluating the medical evidence from Dr. Knudsen
and Dr. Schwebach. Hainline asserts that the ALJ gave great weight to the medical testing
performed by these two doctors, however, the ALJ failed to explain why he did not accept all of
the findings by these doctors. Specifically, Haineline asserts that the ALJ: 1. Failed to resolve a
discrepancy in the record between Dr. Knudsen and Dr. Nelson relating to Hainline’s fine motor
skill limitations; 2. Failed to resolve a discrepancy in the record between Dr. Schwebach and Dr.
Nelson relating to Hainline’s fine motor skills limitations; and 3. Failed to provide an
explanation for why the ALJ believed that Hainline has a limited ability to work with the public,
but is able to work with supervisors and co-workers.
Generally, an ALJ is not “entitled to pick and choose from a medical opinion, using only
those parts that are favorable to a finding of nondisability.” Robinson v. Barnhart, 366 F.3d
1078, 1083 (10th Cir. 2004); See also Haga v. Astrue, 482 F.3d 1205, 1208 (10th Cir. 2007). “In
addition to discussing the evidence supporting his decision, the ALJ also must discuss the
uncontroverted evidence he chooses not to rely upon, as well as significant probative evidence he
rejects.” Clifton v. Chater, 79 F.3d 1007, 1010 (10th Cir. 1996). When an ALJ gives a
physician’s medical opinion “great weight” but disregards specific findings, the ALJ is required
to explain why he or she did not rely on the specific findings that were disregarded. See Martinez
v. Astrue, 422 Fed. Appx. 719, 725 (10th Cir. 2011) (unpublished).
Dr. Knudsen’s Medical Opinion Relating to Motor/Perceptual Limitations
In January 2013, Dr. Knudsen referred Hainline to a facility to perform a functional
capabilities evaluation. (A.R. 766-777). The exam results found that Hainline was in the bottom
one percentile in her ability to manipulate fine objects. (A.R. 775). Hainline asserts that Dr.
Knudsen performed the functional capabilities evaluation. The identity of the evaluator that
performed the testing, however, is unknown because his or her signature is illegible. (See A.R.
776). Although the identity of the examiner is not known, it is known that Dr. Knudsen did not
perform the testing.
The ALJ gave “great weight” to Dr. Knudsen’s medical testing. (A.R. 56). The ALJ also
gave “considerable weight” to Dr. Nelson’s medical opinion. (A.R. 56). Dr. Nelson opined, in
relevant part, that Hainline has good hand-eye coordination and full strength. (A.R. 592). It was
Dr. Nelson’s opinion that Hainline had no functional limitations arising from her alleged
Hainline asserts that there is a conflict in the record because Dr. Knudsen found that
Hainline is in the bottom one percentile in her ability to manipulate fine objects, while Dr.
Nelson found that Hainline has good hand-eye coordination and full strength. Hainline argues
that the ALJ was required to reconcile the conflict in the record by explaining why he did not
find that Hainline has motor/perceptual functional limitations. The court disagrees with
Hainline’s assertion that there is a conflict between Dr. Knudsen and Dr. Nelson. Hainline has
not provided evidence that Dr. Knudsen either performed the testing, or that she adopted the
results of the testing as her own. It is therefore not irreconcilable to give weight to both Dr.
Knudsen’s and Dr. Nelson’s opinion.
Dr. Schwebach’s Medical Opinion Relating to Motor/Perceptual Limitations
Dr. Schwebach opined that Hainline has motor/perceptual deficits. (A.R. 784). The ALJ
gave “great weight” to the neuropsychological evaluation performed by Dr. Schwebach. (A.R.
57). To determine whether Hainline has motor/perceptual limitations Dr. Schwebach performed
the Rey Complex Figure Drawing test. (A.R. 782). Hainline’s performance placed her in the
bottom one percentile. Id. Dr. Schewbach opined that she likely performed poorly due to the
severity of her executive functioning difficulties, particularly in the area of planning and problem
solving. Id. Hainline argues that Dr. Schwebach’s opinion is in conflict with Dr. Nelson’s who
found that Hainline has no functional limitations from her physical limitations. The court agrees
that there is a conflict in the record.
When an ALJ gives a physician’s medical opinion “great weight” but disregards specific
findings, the ALJ is required to explain why he or she did not rely on the specific findings that
were disregarded. See Martinez v. Astrue, 422 Fed. Appx. 719, 725 (10th Cir. 2011)
(unpublished). The ALJ did not provide an explanation for why he did not take into account Dr.
Schwebach’s opinion about Hainline’s motor/perceptual limitations. The court finds that the ALJ
was required to provide an explanation for why he did not take Dr. Schwebach’s findings into
account on Hainline’s motor/perceptual limitations. This failure may not have been harmless
because the jobs the ALJ found Hainline capable of performing may require motor/perceptual
functions. For example, an addressor likely needs to write addresses. The other job, a laundry
folder, may require the employee to sew buttons, or perform other tasks that require proficient
motor skills. The court will not make a finding on whether Hainline may perform the above jobs
after her motor/perceptual limitations are taken into account. The court remands this case for the
ALJ to: 1. Resolve the discrepancy between Dr. Nelson’s and Dr. Schwebach’s opinion on
Hainline’s motor/perceptual difficulties; and 2. If the ALJ finds that Hainline has significant
motor/perceptual difficulties, then to determine whether Hainline is capable of performing the
job of an addressor, laundry folder, or any other job available in the national economy.
There is no Conflict on the ALJ’s Findings Relating to Contact With the Public
The ALJ determined that Hainline “can interact with supervisors and co-workers, but
should have only brief and superficial interactive contact with the public.” (A.R. 53). The ALJ
also found that Hainline “can perform simple, routine, goal-oriented work in a stable
environment.” Id. Hainline argues that the ALJ’s finding contradicts itself because the ALJ did
not provide an explanation for why contact with the public is different than contact with her
supervisors and co-workers. The court disagrees that there is a conflict in the ALJ’s findings on
this matter. A person may be capable of executing a supervisor’s orders, but may not be effective
with interacting with the public. There is not a conflict in this finding.
The court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Hainline’s appeal. For the
aforementioned reasons, the court REMANDS this appeal for the ALJ to resolve the conflict
between Dr. Nelson and Dr. Schwebach relating to Hainline’s motor/perceptual limitations.
Dated this 31st day of October, 2017.
BY THE COURT:
DALE A. KIMBALL,
United States District Judge
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