United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)
for judicial review of the final decision of Defendant
Carolyn W. Colvin, the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security, denying the application of Plaintiff Amalia Smith
(“Plaintiff”) for Disabled Adult Child and Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et
seq., and for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et seq. (the
“Act”). The parties consented to the jurisdiction
of the undersigned magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c). (Doc. 9). Because I find the decision denying
benefits was not supported by substantial evidence, I will
reverse the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's
application and remand for further proceedings.
around February 13, 2012, Plaintiff applied for Disabled
Adult Child benefits and SSI, alleging that she had been
unable to work since August 23, 2010. (Tr. 221, 223, 236).
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially. (Tr.
145-46, 148-58). Plaintiff filed a request for hearing by an
administrative law judge (ALJ). (Tr. 159). After a hearing,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a disability as
defined in the Act. (Tr. 13-27). On March 26, 2015, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(Tr. 5-7). Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative
remedies, and the decision of the ALJ stands as the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Plaintiff's Statements and Testimony
Function Report completed in February 2012, Plaintiff
reported living in a trailer behind her parents' house.
(Tr. 266). Plaintiff reported caring for a cat; doing
laundry, cleaning, and yard work; drawing; writing books;
playing video games; and sometimes reading. Plaintiff
reported difficulty with memory completing tasks,
concentrating, understanding, following instructions, and
getting along with others. (Tr. 267-68, 271).
December 10, 2013, Plaintiff testified at a hearing before
the ALJ. (Tr. 103-34). At the time, she was living in a
residential care facility. (Tr. 105). She testified that in
August 2012, she was hospitalized for fourteen days, and her
parents would not allow her to return home. (Tr. 105). She
stayed in a homeless shelter four three months, then returned
to the hospital because she became suicidal, and then got
into the residential care facility. (Tr. 106). She looked for
some work while she was living at the homeless shelter, but
she did not have any luck; she also held off looking for a
job because of the disability hearing coming up. (Tr.
108-09). She has a high school education and thought about
going to college, but her adoptive mother discouraged her
from going. (Tr. 110-11).
testified that she generally gets along with others, that she
“can do just about anything in the house” such as
cooking, laundry, and dishes, (Tr. 115); that she can go
shopping, (Tr. 117-18); and that she enjoys playing
videogames, drawing, writing, and hanging out with friends,
(Tr. 119). She testified that she gets depressed a lot and
does not want to get out of bed or do anything. (Tr. 122).
She testified that her depression and anxiety would prevent
her from working because if she was in a bad or upsetting
mood, she would not be very productive at work and could be
late, could not show up, or could snap at her boss. (Tr.
126). She also testified that she does not deal with stress
well and will sometimes hold it in and then “explode
on” someone. (Tr. 127). She also testified that she
gets claustrophobia and anxiety when crowded around a lot of
people, or when she has a lot of things on her mind. (Tr.
records from February 2010 to June 2011 show that Plaintiff
was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome, attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, seasonal pattern depression, and mild
recurrent major depression, and that she received several
medications for these conditions (Tr. 318-41).
high school records from February 2012 show that Plaintiff
had a grade point average of 3.16 on a 4.0 scale and was in
regular education classes with no special instruction. (Tr.
347). Plaintiff's teacher completed a questionnaire
indicating that she missed school often for illness; that
Plaintiff had no problems acquiring and using information or
attending and completing tasks; and that she had “a
slight problem” (2 on a scale of 1 to 5) in several
areas of interacting and relating with others, including
playing cooperatively with other children, making and keeping
friends, seeking attention appropriately, and relating
experiences and telling stories. (Tr. 349-52).
April 4, 2012, Plaintiff underwent a consultative
psychological evaluation by Dr. John O. Wood, Psy. D. (Tr.
374-76). Plaintiff reported some problems with depression and
anxiety, distractibility, sustaining attention, and
maintaining concentration. (Tr. 374). Plaintiff reported
exhibiting odd motor movements. (Tr. 374). Plaintiff reported
generally eating meals with parents, spending time at home
studying for school, helping with household chores, reading
books, playing video games, writing poems and stories, and
hanging out with friends at school. (Tr. 375). Dr. Wood found
that Plaintiff's eye contact was fair, that Plaintiff
spoke at times in a somewhat soft and v manner, that
Plaintiff's mood and affect were generally appropriate
and congruent, and that Plaintiff was cooperative and
agreeable during the examination. (Tr. 375). Dr. Wood
performed some testing and found some deficits in delayed
recall and attention. (Tr. 375). Dr. Wood assessed attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (by history), Tourette's
disorder (by history), and depressive disorder. (Tr. 375). He
assigned Plaintiff a Global Assessment of Functioning
(“GAF”) score of 65, indicating mild
symptoms. (Tr. 376). He found that Plaintiff was
capable of understanding and remembering simple instructions
and that when on medication, Plaintiff's ability to
maintain attention and concentration on simple tasks was
adequate. (Tr. 376).
early August 2012, Plaintiff was hospitalized for
approximately two weeks for depression with some vague
suicidal ideations. (Tr. 384). Plaintiff reported difficulty
with being made fun of at school. (Tr. 388). Plaintiff
reported that she had not been taking medications as
prescribed due to an inability to pay for them. (Tr. 389).
Plaintiff's mood and affect improved as the course of the
hospitalization progressed, with a GAF score at admission of
31 and a GAF score at discharge of 55. (Tr. 384). At
discharge, Plaintiff's mother refused to take her back,
and a social worker found Plaintiff a place at a shelter.
August 23, 2012, Plaintiff underwent a psychiatric evaluation
by Courtney Johnson, M.D. Dr. Johnson reviewed
Plaintiff's medical and social history and noted a
history of depressive symptoms and at least one suicide
attempt. (Tr. 412). She noted that Plaintiff's depressive
symptoms resolved once she stopped living with her adoptive
parents. (Tr. 412). Dr. Johnson stated that “[a]lthough
it appears that the patient may have met criteria for major
depressive disorder, the fact that his depressive symptoms
are associated with external stressor and quickly remitted in
the presence of that particular stressor being removed is
concerning for adjustment disorder, with mixed anxiety and
depressed mood.” (Tr. 412). She noted that a history of
fighting, difficulty paying attention, and problems with
memory was concerning for ADHD, which should be further
evaluated. (Tr. 412). She assigned a GAF score of
41-50 and continued Plaintiff's medications.
October 21, 2012, Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital with
depression and suicidal thoughts. (Tr. 426). Plaintiff
reported that she had not been taking medications due to an
inability to afford them, but it was noted that she was now
on Medicaid. (Tr. 432). Plaintiff reported that when the
people at the Amen Center (the shelter where Plaintiff was
living) found out about her sexual orientation, “it got
bad, ” and Plaintiff became suicidal. (Tr. 426, 432).
Plaintiff reported contemplating suicide every day. (Tr.
432). Plaintiff's medications were adjusted. (Tr. 433).
Plaintiff's GAF was 35 upon admission and was 55 at
discharge five days later. (Tr. 432). Plaintiff was found a
place at the Lou Masterman Residential Care Facility. (Tr.
approximately October 25, 2012, and at least December 10,
2013, Plaintiff lived at the residential care facility. (Tr.
434-35, 105). Medical records during this period show that
Plaintiff complained of symptoms including depression or low
mood, (Tr. 397, 476, 480, 484, 485); a chronic intermittent
passive death wish, (Tr. 468, 476); gender identity issues,
(Tr. 397, 418, 420, 468, 488); anxiety, (Tr. 418); and poor
distress tolerance, (Tr. 420, 421, 479). Plaintiff's
diagnoses included depressive disorder, r/o panic disorder
without agoraphobia; Asperger's Syndrome; gender identity
disorder; borderline personality disorder; a history of
Tourette's Disorder; a history of ADHD; and a history of
pervasive developmental disorder. (Tr. 418, 421, 467, 468,
472, 474, 475, 478, 479, 482, 483, 484, ...