Dustin v. Astrue
MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER. The court finds that Judge Henrys decision is supported by substantial evidence. Her ruling is therefore AFFIRMED. Signed by Judge Robert J. Shelby on 10/10/2013. (tls)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH
MICHAEL S. DUSTIN,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Case No. 2:11-cv-622
Michael S. Dustin seeks judicial review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying Mr. Dustin’s application for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of
the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. After a careful review of the record and for
the reasons discussed below, the court finds that the Commissioner’s decision is supported by
substantial evidence and is therefore AFFIRMED.
Mr. Dustin filed his social security application on June 30, 2008. He claimed that, as of
June 16, 2008, he was disabled due to depression, personality disorder, and other mental
problems. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Mr. Dustin requested a
hearing, which was held on May 4, 2010, in front of Administrative Law Judge Patricia C.
Henry. Judge Henry denied Mr. Dustin’s claim and the Appeals Council denied Mr. Dustin’s
request for review. Mr. Dustin then filed this appeal.
Mr. Dustin was forty-three years old at the time of Judge Henry’s decision. He has
completed the first year of either college or a technical school. (R. at 29.) Mr. Dustin cannot
remember the last time he was employed, but it was probably before 2003 at Randy’s Engine
Machine. (R. at 30.)
Mr. Dustin has a history of antisocial behavior. (R. at 13.) Before graduating high school
in 1985, he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon at age seventeen and for automobile
theft at age eighteen. (R. at 13.) In 1988, Mr. Dustin was convicted of attempted murder. (Id.)
After his release, Mr. Dustin started his own computer business and designed, built, and repaired
computer systems. (R. at 29.) The business eventually ceased operations. (R. at 258.) In 2002,
he was convicted of cultivating and distributing marijuana. (R. at 13.) In 2007, he was convicted
of possession of marijuana and methamphetamine. (Id.) Mr. Dustin spent another three weeks in
prison in May 2008 after testing positive on a urinalysis. (Id.)
Mr. Dustin alleges that he has been disabled since June 16, 2008, due to mental
impairments and depression. (R. at 11, 13.) Mr. Dustin claims that the primary reason he can no
longer work is that, due to his mental condition, he has trouble focusing and concentrating and
has difficulty interacting with authority figures. (R. at 31.)
Mr. Dustin saw numerous physicians from 2007 to 2010. The court has reviewed Mr.
Dustin’s medical record and describes Mr. Dustin’s medical visits in chronological order.
Mr. Dustin saw Dr. Michael Smith on July 31, 2007. (R. at 267.) During his visit, Mr.
Dustin related that he had participated in a dual diagnosis program at Central Utah Counseling
Center, where he received treatment for depression, marijuana dependence, and antisocial
personality disorder. (R. at 14, 267.) Dr. Smith noted that Mr. Dustin responded favorably to the
treatment, even though Mr. Dustin was not on any medication. (R. at 267.)
On June 16, 2008, Mr. Dustin entered the hospital after having suicidal thoughts and
suffering from depression. (R. at 14.) Dr. Sam Coates examined Mr. Dustin and determined that
he had a Global Assessment Functioning (GAF) score of twenty-five.1 (R. at 240.) This score
indicated that Mr. Dustin was unable to function in almost all areas. Mr. Dustin began taking the
anti-depressant Celexa and his mood stabilized. (Id.) He was discharged on June 19, 2008. (R.
at 14.) At the time of discharge, Mr. Dustin’s GAF score was fifty, which indicates serious
impairment.2 (R. at 240.)
Mr. Dustin saw Brandon Christensen on July 7, 2008, to obtain a clinical evaluation for
his disability application and to begin counseling. (R. at 257.) Mr. Christensen reported that Mr.
Dustin’s speech was “normal in flow and in volume” and that Mr. Dustin “maintained
appropriate eye contact and responded appropriately to the interviewer’s questions. (Id.)
According to Mr. Christensen, Mr. Dustin “appeared to be of average or above average
intelligence,” had “an exaggerated sense of superiority,” and felt “the laws, rules, and
consequences of society should not be applied to him.” (Id.) Mr. Christensen diagnosed Mr.
The Global Assessment of Function scale is a numeric scale from one through one
hundred. The scale is used by mental health physicians and doctors to rate social, occupational,
and psychological functioning of adults. A score of twenty-one to thirty indicates the patient’s
behavior is influenced by one of three things: (1) delusions or hallucinations; (2) serious
impairment in communication or judgment (e.g., sometimes incoherent, grossly inappropriate
acts, and suicidal preoccupation); or (3) the inability to function in almost all areas (e.g., stays in
bed all day, has no job, home, or friends). (Pl.’s Brief, at 3, Dkt. No. 13.)
A GAF score of 41-50 indicates serious impairment. (Pl.’s Brief, at 3.)
Dustin with a GAF score of forty-five at the time of the examination, and believed that Mr.
Dustin’s highest GAF score in the previous year was sixty. (R. at 259.)
Dr. Spencer Scoville examined Mr. Dustin on July 15, 2008, and diagnosed Mr. Dustin
with bipolar disorder with anger outbursts. (R. at 249.) Mr. Dustin told Dr. Scoville that he had
an outburst at Workforce Services the week before. (Id.) During a follow-up meeting on August
15, 2008, Mr. Dustin stated that he continued to use Celexa. (R. at 247.) Mr. Dustin also
reported that he was not having any manic or major depressive episodes. (Id.)
On September 3, 2008, Mr. Dustin had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Smith. (R. at
255.) Mr. Dustin appeared to be “fairly happy” about his domestic situation at the time and was
in the process of applying for social security benefits. (Id.) Mr. Dustin was “calm and
cooperative” during the interview and “interacted comfortably.” (Id.) Dr. Smith scheduled
another follow-up visit and continued Mr. Dustin on Celexa. (Id.)
On October 2, 2008, Dr. Nancy Cohn reviewed Mr. Dustin’s records as part of his
application for disability benefits. (R. at 16.) Dr. Cohn is a state agency psychological
consultant. (Id.) Based on her review of the records, Dr. Cohn stated that Mr. Dustin could work
with limited public contact. (Id.)
Dr. Kenneth Wallis, a state agency psychological consultant, also reviewed Mr. Dustin's
records. (Id.) Dr. Wallis determined that Mr. Dustin had psychosis not otherwise specified,
major depressive disorder, antisocial personality disorder with obsessive compulsive features,
and cannabis dependency, which was in remission. (Id.) Dr. Wallis stated that Mr. Dustin could
perform low stress, unskilled or semi-skilled work with minimal public contact. (Id.) He also
noted that Mr. Dustin had moderate limitations on his ability to concentrate for extended periods.
(R. at 236.)
On November 14, 2008, Mr. Dustin met with Mr. Christensen again. (R. at 274.) Mr.
Dustin reported that he was feeling “much better” and had a reduction of many symptoms. (Id.)
On March 25, 2009, Mr. Dustin followed up with Dr. Smith. (R. at 293.) Mr. Dustin
reported that he was doing “much better,” and Dr. Smith noted that Mr. Dustin responded
favorably to medication. (Id.) Additionally, Dr. Smith completed a Mental Capacity
Assessment. (R. at 282.) The Assessment documented a number of Mr. Dustin’s limitations.
(Id.) Dr. Smith stated that Mr. Dustin had extreme limitations in his ability to “perform activities
within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual with customary tolerances.”
(Id.) Dr. Smith further noted extreme limitations in Mr. Dustin’s ability to “sustain an ordinary
routine without special supervision,” “accept instructions and respond appropriately to criticism
from supervisors,” and “get along with coworkers or peers without distracting them.” (R. at
282-83.) Finally, Dr. Smith wrote that Mr. Dustin would miss four or more days of work every
month. (R. at 283.)
Dr. Smith had another appointment with Mr. Dustin on April 30, 2009. (R. at 290.) Mr.
Dustin stated that he was doing “a little better” and indicated that the Celexa was “quite
effective.” (Id.) Mr. Dustin noted that he sometimes lost patience and responded in an angry
manner towards people around him. (Id.) But Mr. Dustin displayed enthusiasm when showing
Dr. Smith the computer creations he put together. (Id.) The two met again on June 10, 2009.
(R. at 287.) Mr. Dustin said he was “doing good” and his relationships with others were
gradually improving. (Id.)
Prior to another meeting with Dr. Smith on July 22, 2009, Mr. Dustin had thoughts of
ending his life. (R. at 285.) But Mr. Dustin gave no indication during the meeting that he would
harm himself. (Id.) Mr. Dustin did not wear shoes to the meeting, but Dr. Smith noted that it
was not unusual for Mr. Dustin to come to his appointments without shoes. (Id.) Mr. Dustin
stated that he wanted to get back on Celexa but could not afford the co-pay. (Id.) Dr. Smith
believed Mr. Dustin had “some good plans for the future and [Mr. Dustin talked] a lot about
implementing” them. (Id.) Dr. Smith did note that Mr. Dustin appeared “a little bit sad.” (Id.)
In early 2010, Mr. Dustin began seeing Dr. Mark Rindflesh in Wyoming. (R. at 298.)
Dr. Rindflesh diagnosed Mr. Dustin with major depressive disorder and increased Mr. Dustin’s
dosage of Celexa. (Id.) During follow up meetings in February and April, Mr. Dustin stated he
was “doing better.” (R. at 296-97.) Mr. Dustin stated he was “not looking for an out” by
applying for disability benefits, but that he “want[ed] to use [the benefits] to invest in going to
school and fine tune [his] computer skills.” (R. at 298.)
The court has reviewed the transcript of the May 4, 2010, hearing before Judge Henry and
finds that Judge Henry accurately summarized Mr. Dustin’s testimony in her decision. (R. at
11-21.) The court highlights a few points from the hearing transcript.
Mr. Dustin testified that he cannot work because he has difficulty interacting with
authority figures and has trouble concentrating. (R. at 31.) Mr. Dustin acknowledged he should
be taking Celexa but could not afford to do so. (R. at 32.) Additionally, Mr. Dustin testified that
at one time he designed, built, and repaired computer systems. (R. at 29.) The vocational expert
testified that a person with Mr. Dustin’s background and residual functional capacity could not
perform this type of work. (R. at 40.) But the expert testified that such a person could perform
other work in the national economy. (R. at 40-41.)
Standard of Review
The court reviews the Commisioner’s decision to determine whether substantial evidence
in the record as a whole supports the factual findings and whether the correct legal standards
were applied. See Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence
“requires more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance.” Id. It is “such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (citation omitted).
Further, the court “will not reweigh the evidence or substitute [its own] judgment for the
Commissioner’s . . . [and] may not displace the agency’s choice between two fairly conflicting
views, even though the court would justifiably have made a different choice had the matter been
before it de novo.” Id. (citation omitted).
Judge Henry’s Decision
Under the Social Security Act, “disability” is defined as the “inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to
last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act further provides that an individual shall be determined to be disabled
“only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only
unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience,
engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy.” 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
A person seeking Social Security benefits bears the burden of proving that because of her
disability, she is unable to perform her prior work activity. Miller v. Chater, 99 F.3d 972, 975
(10th Cir. 1996). Once the claimant establishes that she has such a disability, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to prove that the claimant retains the ability to do other work and that jobs
which she can perform exist in the national economy. Id.
The Commissioner has established a five-step process for determining whether a person
A person who is working is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
A person who does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments severe enough to limit his ability to do basic work activities
is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c).
A person whose impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed
in the “Listing of Impairments,” 20 C.F.R. § 404, subpt. P, app. 1, is
conclusively presumed to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d).
A person who is able to perform work he has done in the past is not
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e).
A person whose impairment precludes performance of past work is
disabled unless the Secretary demonstrates that the person can perform
other work available in the national economy. Factors to be considered are
age, education, past work experience, and residual functional capacity. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(f).
Judge Henry performed this sequential analysis, and found as follows: (1) Mr. Dustin had
not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset of his disability; (2) he had
severe impairments related to his mental disorders, which included major depressive disorder,
psychosis, and antisocial personality disorder; (3) he did not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or equals the listings; (4) he had no past relevant work experience; but
(5) he was capable of performing jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.
(R. at 13-20.) Based on these findings, Judge Henry concluded that Mr. Dustin was not disabled
under the Social Security Act. (R. at 21.)
Mr. Dustin’s Objections to Judge Henry’s Ruling
Mr. Dustin believes that Judge Henry did not base her opinion on substantial evidence for
three reasons. First, he argues that Judge Henry did not properly evaluate the medical opinion
evidence, especially Dr. Smith’s assessment of Mr. Dustin’s limitations. Second, Mr. Dustin
contends that Judge Henry failed to include the limitations listed by Dr. Smith and other
treatment providers when she determined Mr. Dustin’s residual functional capacity. Finally, Mr.
Dustin asserts that Judge Henry failed to properly evaluate his subjective testimony.
Medical Opinion Evidence
Mr. Dustin contends that Judge Henry erred when she evaluated the evidence provided by
his treating physician, Dr. Smith. In deciding how much weight to give the opinion of a treating
physician, an ALJ must first determine whether the opinion is entitled to “controlling weight.”
Watkins v. Barnhart, 350 F.3d 1297, 1300-01 (10th Cir. 2003). An ALJ must give the opinion of
a treating physician controlling weight if it is both “well-supported by medically acceptable
clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques” and “consistent with other substantial evidence in
the record. . . . [I]f the opinion is deficient in either of these respects, then it is not entitled to
controlling weight.” Id. But even if not entitled to controlling weight, “[t]reating source medical
opinions are still entitled to deference and must be weighed using all the factors provided in 20
C.F.R. § 416.927.” Id. These factors include the nature and extent of the treatment relationship,
the evidence supporting a medical source’s opinion, and the consistency of that opinion. 20
C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(2)-(4). An ALJ is not required to “apply expressly” all relevant factors.
Oldham v. Astrue, 509 F.3d 1254, 1258-59 (10th Cir. 2007). And a treating physician’s opinion
may be rejected if there is a discrepancy between a very restrictive functional assessment and
contemporaneous examination findings. White v. Barnhart, 287 F.3d 903, 907-08 (10th Cir.
In the Mental Capacity Assessment that Dr. Smith filled out for Mr. Dustin on March 25,
2009, Dr. Smith wrote that Mr. Dustin had extreme limitations in a number of areas and
concluded that Mr. Dustin would miss four or more days of work every month. Judge Henry
found that Dr. Smith’s evaluation was “entitled to some weight . . . [but not] substantial or
controlling weight. His opinion is inconsistent with the information contained in the treatment
records.” Judge Henry supports her opinion by observing that “[t]he treatment records indicate
that [Mr. Dustin’s] mood disorder symptoms responded favorably to treatment with Celexa and
he was consistently pleasant and cooperative when examined by Dr. Smith.” Judge Henry also
stated that Dr. Smith’s opinions was “inconsistent with his March 25, 2009 statement that it
would be great if the claimant could find a job working with computers.”
Mr. Dustin argues that Judge Henry was overly selective in her review of the record and
failed to note a number of instances when Mr. Dustin was not functioning well enough to work
even when he was on Celexa. For instance, during his visit with Dr. Scoville on July 15, 2008,
Mr. Dustin discussed his outburst at Workforce Services that occurred even though he was taking
Celexa. Mr. Dustin also points to observations by Dr. Coates and Mr. Christensen noting Mr.
Dustin’s limitations during this time period. But the examples that Mr. Dustin cites occurred
within the first few months after his hospitalization in June 2008. The reports from Dr. Smith
and other providers in later visits consistently indicate a good response to Celexa. These visits
include appointments with Dr Scoville on August 15, 2008, Dr. Smith on September 3, 2008,
Mr. Christensen on November 14, 2008, and Dr. Smith on March 25, 2009. Later visits that
occurred after Dr. Smith filled out the Mental Capacity Assessment also indicate a positive
response to this treatment. For instance, Mr. Dustin himself stated that Celexa was “quite
effective” in an appointment with Dr. Smith on April 30, 2009. Looking at the medical evidence
as a whole, it was reasonable for Judge Henry to find that the treating records did not support Dr.
Smith’s restrictive evaluation of Mr. Dustin’s limitations.
Mr. Dustin also contends that Judge Henry should not have relied on Dr. Smith’s
comment about getting a job working with computers because she took this statement out of
context. While Dr. Smith said that it would be nice if Mr. Dustin could get such a position, he
did not opine on whether Mr. Dustin could maintain such a position. Mr. Dustin notes that Judge
Henry herself found that Mr. Dustin could no longer perform this type of work. While the court
agrees that Dr. Smith’s comment is not a conclusive assessment of whether Mr. Dustin could
maintain a job working with computers, the court finds that it was reasonable for Judge Henry to
consider Dr. Smith’s comment as evidence that Dr. Smith overstated some of Mr. Dustin’s
limitations. Dr. Smith’s optimistic statement does appear to conflict with the restrictive
assessment of Mr. Dustin’s limitations that he made during the same appointment on March 25,
In any event, Judge Henry did not completely disregard Dr. Smith’s opinion. She merely
found that his opinion was not entitled to controlling or substantial weight. In addition to the
reasons discussed above, Judge Henry also noted elsewhere in her opinion that the state medical
reviewers both asserted that Mr. Dustin could perform low stress unskilled work. This
evaluation was inconsistent with the limitations provided by Dr. Smith in his Mental Capacity
Assessment. For these reasons, the court finds that there is substantial evidence in the record to
support Judge Henry’s decision to give less weight to Dr. Smith’s evaluation.
Residual Functional Capacity
Mr. Dustin asserts that Judge Henry failed to include all of Mr. Dustin’s impairments in
his residual functional capacity for two reasons. First, Mr. Dustin argues that Judge Henry did
not include the limitations mentioned by Dr. Smith in his Mental Capacity Assessment. But this
argument is a restatement of the claims discussed above. Judge Henry provided reasons why she
was giving Dr. Smith’s evaluation some weight but not substantial weight. Because the court
finds that her decision was supported by substantial evidence, there was no reason why Judge
Henry needed to include all of Dr. Smith’s limitations in her assessment of Mr. Dustin’s residual
Second, Mr. Dustin contends that Judge Henry did not include all the limitations
mentioned by Dr. Wallis, who was one of the state agency physicians that looked at Mr. Dustin’s
records. Dr. Wallis stated that Mr. Dustin could only perform work that was low stress, simple
work with minimal public contact. Dr. Wallis also mentioned that Mr. Dustin had marked
impairment in his ability to maintain social functioning and had moderate limits in his ability to
concentrate for extended periods.
The court agrees that Judge Henry did not include the qualification that Mr. Dustin could
only perform low stress work in Mr. Dustin’s residual functional capacity. But Judge Henry did
state that Mr. Dustin could perform only unskilled work requiring only occasional interactions
with coworkers, supervisors, or the public. It is unlikely that the addition of the words “low
stress” to this description would have affected the vocational expert’s evaluation of whether jobs
existed in the national economy for individuals of Mr. Dustin’s residual functional capacity.
Similarly, it is unlikely that a greater emphasis on Mr. Dustin’s inability to maintain social
functioning would have affected Judge Henry’s decision, since the vocational expert testified that
the available jobs did not require an employee to have any interactions with the public. In any
event, Dr. Wallis’s ultimate assessment that Mr. Dustin could perform low stress unskilled or
semi-skilled jobs with minimal public contact is consistent with Judge Henry’s evaluation of Mr.
Dustin’s residual functional capacity. The court also notes that Dr. Cohn, the other state agency
physician to examine Mr. Dustin’s records, found that Mr. Dustin did not have marked
limitations in any areas.
For these reasons, the court finds that Judge Henry’s assessment of Mr. Dustin’s residual
functional capacity was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence.
Mr. Dustin’s Testimony
Finally, Mr. Dustin argues that Judge Henry did not adequately take into account his
subjective testimony. Credibility determinations are the province of the ALJ and should not be
disturbed if supported by substantial evidence. McGoffin v. Barnhart, 288 F.3d 1248, 1254 (10th
Cir. 2002). Nevertheless, the ALJ’s findings “should be closely and affirmatively linked to
substantial evidence and not just a conclusion in the guise of findings.” Id. (citation omitted).
Judge Henry found that Mr. Dustin’s statements about the “intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects” of his symptoms were not credible to the extent that they conflicted with her
assessment of Mr. Dustin’s residual functional capacity. (R. at 19.) Judge Henry supported her
conclusion with eight arguments, but Mr. Dustin contends that these arguments are not supported
by the record. While the court agrees that a few of Judge Henry’s arguments lack support, the
court finds that her assessment on the whole is supported by substantial evidence.
First, Judge Henry found that Mr. Dustin’s allegations and testimony were not supported
by the objective medical evidence. Judge Henry noted that after Mr. Dustin’s hospitalization in
2008, his symptoms improved and his suicidal thoughts subsided. Judge Henry stated that the
medical evidence indicated that Mr. Dustin’s psychiatric symptoms “remained stable with
treatment since June 2008.” (R. at 19.) The court finds that Judge Henry’s opinion is supported
by the record. Mr. Dustin’s doctor visits since June 2008 consistently state that he is “doing
better” and there was no evidence of any significant relapses or additional hospitalizations.
Second, Judge Henry discussed Mr. Dustin’s use of Celexa. Mr. Dustin testified that he
stopped taking Celexa about a month before the hearing with Judge Henry because he could not
afford it. Judge Henry found that Mr. Dustin had not established that he was unable to obtain
Celexa from sources in his community for a lower price or for free. The parties have not briefed
whether Mr. Dustin bears the burden to demonstrate that he cannot obtain treatment for an
affordable price, but the court finds that in any event this question is not relevant to an evaluation
of Mr. Dustin’s credibility.
Third, Judge Henry discredited Mr. Dustin’s testimony because he stated that he had
never abused any drugs besides marijuana. Judge Henry did not believe this statement because
she found that the medical evidence indicated that he had a history of methamphetamine abuse.
The court finds that the medical record does not necessarily indicate a history of abuse, but the
record does contain evidence that Mr. Dustin was arrested for possession of marijuana and
methamphetamine. Given that Mr. Dustin failed to explain how he came to be arrested with
methamphetamine if he was not using it, it was reasonable for Judge Henry to question the
accuracy of Mr. Dustin’s testimony that he had never abused any drugs besides marijuana.
Fourth, Judge Henry found that Mr. Dustin’s statement that he played online computer
games for eighteen hours a day called into question his testimony that he had a great deal of
difficulty maintaining concentration and attention for extended periods of time. While Judge
Henry did not make any inquiries into the type of games that Mr. Dustin played or how much
attention they required, it was reasonable for her to find that a person must be able to maintain
some concentration and attention to do any activity for such an extended period of time.
Fifth, Judge Henry noted that Mr. Dustin was once convicted of forgery, a crime
involving dishonesty. Because the charge was from twenty years ago, the court finds that this
evidence provides little support for Judge Henry’s finding that Mr. Dustin’s testimony was not
Sixth, Mr. Dustin testified that he experiences suicidal thoughts on a daily basis, but
Judge Henry noted that the medical evidence does not demonstrate that he reported these
thoughts to his mental health providers. The court agrees that Mr. Dustin did not mention
suicidal thoughts on a daily basis during his follow-up appointments and finds that it was
reasonable for Judge Henry to conclude that Mr. Dustin may have overestimated the frequency of
these thoughts in his testimony.
Seventh, Judge Henry found that Mr. Dustin’s assessment of his limitations was
questionable given a statement he made to Dr. Rindflesh. Mr. Dustin told Dr. Rindflesh that he
wanted to obtain disability benefits so that he could go to school and fine tune his computer
skills. While these goals are laudable, the court agrees that disability benefits are not appropriate
for someone who plans to return to school. It was reasonable for Judge Henry to find that Mr.
Dustin’s statement cast doubt on his assertion that he was disabled.
Finally, Judge Henry found that Mr. Dustin’s activities of daily living were inconsistent
with his allegation of total disability. Mr. Dustin testified that he performed all of the household
chores except for laundry and that he cooks and helps with the grocery shopping. The court
agrees that these tasks, which require some memory and concentration, call into question Mr.
Dustin’s assertion that he has such extreme limitations that he is totally disabled.
Looking at the totality of evidence in the record, the court finds that there is substantial
evidence to support Judge Henry’s decision to discredit Mr. Dustin’s testimony to the extent that
his statements about his symptoms were inconsistent with Judge Henry’s assessment of his
residual functional capacity. The court does not agree with every reason that Judge Henry gave
to support her decision. But there is substantial evidence in the record to support the most
important observations on which Judge Henry’s decision relies, such as the inconsistent medical
evidence and Mr. Dustin’s own statements about his daily activities and his desire to go back to
school. The court therefore finds that Judge Henry adequately supported her decision to discredit
Mr. Dustin’s subjective testimony.
For the reasons stated above, the court finds that Judge Henry’s decision is supported by
substantial evidence. Her ruling is therefore AFFIRMED.
DATED this 10th day of October, 2013.
BY THE COURT:
ROBERT J. SHELBY
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?