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Wilson v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 21, 2016

KIMBERLY WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is 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 Kimberly Wilson (“Plaintiff”) for 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. 8). Because I cannot conclude that the decision denying benefits was supported by substantial evidence, I will reverse the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's application and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Procedural Background

         On March 17, 2011, Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging that she had been unable to work since January 1, 2008, due to a learning disability. (Tr. 229-239, 310). The onset date was later amended to October 1, 2012. (Tr. 74). Plaintiff's applications were denied initially, and she filed a request for a hearing. (Tr. 111-20). Plaintiff participated in a hearing, received an unfavorable decision, and appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, after which the case was remanded back to the ALJ on September 10, 2013. (Tr. 33-51, 91-104 163-68, 105-08). After a second hearing, a second unfavorable decision was issued on December 22, 2014. (Tr. 10-32). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the hearing decision, and on April 1, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 1-5). Plaintiff has exhausted all administrative remedies, and the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

         II. Factual Background

         A. Plaintiff's Statements and Testimony

         In a Function Report completed on March 27, 2011, Plaintiff stated that she has never been able to read or write and cannot count money; that she has a hard time understanding directions; that she is always afraid of looking dumb and being laughed at; and that she has problems with memory, concentration, completing tasks, following directions, and getting along with others. (Tr. 321, 323-25). She also indicated that she has severe mood swings. (Tr. 326).

         Plaintiff testified at a hearing before the ALJ on August 25, 2014. She has completed the tenth grade and was in special education classes in school. (Tr. 57). She cannot read well enough to read newspapers or magazines and cannot read or write a grocery list. (Tr. 58). She had to take her driver's test fifteen times before she passed it. (Tr. 68). She suffers from depression and from knee problems. (Tr. 70-71). Plaintiff testified that people at work say she always has an attitude and does not know how to talk to people. (Tr. 66). She has difficulties getting along with co-workers, because they use words she does not understand and they laugh at her. (Tr. 66). Plaintiff's most recent job was working for a parking company; she got fired after a month because she “supposedly cussed out some customers.” (Tr. 65). She has also worked in the past as a part-time cook, as a lab technician (taking care of mice), and as a babysitter. (Tr. 58-59, 64).

         B. Plaintiff's Medical Records

         Plaintiff's treatment records during the relevant period show that she has reported depression; wanting to hurt herself; poor appetite; thoughts of suicide; difficulty sleeping; homicidal thoughts; hearing voices, irritability; anger; knee pain; and lower back pain. (Tr. 462, 468, 541, 611, 615, 626, 650, 655). Her diagnoses include bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, alcohol-induced mood disorder, cannabis-induced anxiety disorder, and osteoarthritis of the right knee. (Tr. 463-64, 530, 610, 630).

         On April 29, 2011, Plaintiff was seen for a psychological evaluation by Michael T. Armour, Ph.D. (Tr. 405-14). She was 41 years old at the time of the examination. (Tr. 405). Dr. Armour noted that Plaintiff reported running away from home for weeks at a time between the ages of nine and twelve; being in fights as a child and using weapons, including knives; stealing money and food; bullying others; and being bullied. (Tr. 406). She reported that she had attended school in the eleventh grade but had not finished that year. (Tr. 406). She indicated that she had been in special education classes beginning in kindergarten because they had told her that she was a troubled kid and was dumb. (Tr. 406). Her mood during the examination varied from euthymic to upset and tearful. (Tr. 409). She reported having an “attitude” and having problems with irritability, sadness, and feeling empty. (Tr. 409). She reported sleep problems, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and a past suicide attempt. (Tr. 409).

         Dr. Armour conducted testing and found Plaintiff to have a Verbal Comprehension Score of 63; a Perceptual Reasoning score of 82; a Working Memory score of 77; a Processing Speed Index score of 74; and a Full Scale IQ score of 70. (Tr. 408). Dr. Armour noted that her Full Scale IQ fell in the low end of the borderline range. (Tr. 408). Dr. Armour's diagnoses included a reading disability, posttraumatic stress disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning, and he assigned Plaintiff a Global Assessment of Functioning score of 50-55.[1] (Tr. 410-11). He found that Plaintiff had mild to moderate impairment in activities of daily living; mild to moderate impairment in social functioning; mild to occasionally moderate impairment in concentration, persistence, or pace; and no episodes of decompensation. (Tr. 411). He opined that Plaintiff had moderate impairment in the ability to understand and remember instructions; mild to occasionally moderate impairment in the ability to sustain concentration and persistence in tasks; and moderate impairment in the ability to interact socially and adapt to her environment. (Tr. 411-12).

         On June 10, 2014, F. Timothy Leonberger, Ph.D., conducted a neuropsychological evaluation of Plaintiff. (Tr. 450-55). He noted that Plaintiff had been in special education classes beginning in kindergarten and had left high school sometime in eleventh grade. (Tr. 451). She was suspended for fighting two or more times. (Tr. 451). After performing testing, Dr. Leonberger found that Plaintiff had Broad Reading, Broad Mathematics, and Broad Written Language scores that were “all in the extremely low range of functioning” and were “significantly lower than would be expected, considering her Full Scale IQ score.” (Tr. 453). He diagnosed alcohol abuse, cannabis abuse, nicotine dependence, reading disorder, disorder of written expression, and borderline intellectual functioning, and he assigned a GAF score of 50. (Tr. 454). He found that Plaintiff had no impairment to mild impairment in activities of daily living; moderate to marked impairment in social functioning; moderate to marked impairment in concentration, persistence, and pace; and moderate impairment in deterioration or decompensation in work or work-like settings. (Tr. 454).

         III. Standard for Determining ...


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