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Workman v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 6, 2017

JOHN W.K. WORKMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court for review of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security[1] denying Plaintiff John W.K. Workman's application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.[2] In response to Plaintiff's brief in this case, Defendant filed a Motion to Reverse and Remand and For Entry of Final Judgment (Doc. 10). Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendant's Motion to Reverse and Remand (Doc. 11), pointing to Defendant's failure to identify any errors or basis for a remand for further administrative adjudication. Defendant has not replied to Plaintiff's response. The Court finds that Defendant's findings are not supported by substantial evidence, but does not find that the record establishes the basis for an immediate award of benefits in lieu of remand. Thus, the Court grants Defendant's motion for remand, and directs the Commissioner to reconsider its analyses at steps two and three, and if necessary, at steps four and five, consistent with the Administrative Law Judge's errors and the Court's concerns identified in this decision.

         I. Procedural History

         On January 23, 2013, Plaintiff applied for supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning May 27, 2012. The claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration; after a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff then sought judicial review in this court.

         II. Standard for Judicial Review

         Judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is limited to whether Defendant's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether Defendant applied the correct legal standards.[3] The Tenth Circuit has defined “substantial evidence” as “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”[4] In the course of its review, the court may not re-weigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of Defendant.[5]

         III. Legal Standards and Analytical Framework

         Under the Social Security Act, “disability” means the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment.”[6] An individual “shall be determined to be under a disability 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.”[7] The Secretary has established a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether a claimant is disabled.[8] If the ALJ determines the claimant is disabled or not disabled at any step along the way, the evaluation ends.[9]

         IV. Discussion

         Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's determination at step three that Plaintiff's severe impairment of borderline intellectual functioning does not meet the listings at 12.05C or 12.05D, [10] and by implication challenges the ALJ's finding at step two that Plaintiff's depression and anxiety are not severe impairments. Plaintiff alternatively argues that the ALJ erred at step four in determining Plaintiff's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which Plaintiff argues is in part a product of the ALJ's improper evaluation of the medical evidence of record.

         A. Listing 12.05(C) and 12.05(D)

         At step three of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ determines whether the claimant's impairments meet or equal one of the listings in Subpart P, Appendix 1, [11] for if he does, he is disabled.[12] It is the claimant's burden to present evidence establishing that his impairment(s) met or equaled listed impairment(s).[13]

         Listing 12.05 states in relevant part that,

Mental retardation refers to significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested during the developmental period, i.e., the evidence demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before age 22.[14]

         This listing requires proof that one of four requirements are satisfied:

A. Mental capacity evidenced by dependence upon others for personal needs (e.g. toileting, eating, dressing, or bathing) and inability to follow directions, such that the use of standardized measures of intellectual functioning is precluded; or
B. A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 59 or less; or
C. A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70 and a physical or other mental impairment imposing an additional and significant work-related limitation of function; or
D. A valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70, resulting in at least ...

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