United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
W. BROOMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
filed this action for review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's
application for social security disability benefits. The
matter is fully briefed by the parties and the court is
prepared to rule. (Docs. 17, 24, 25, 28.) The
Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED for the reasons set
Standard of Review
court's standard of review is set forth in 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), which provides that “the findings of the
Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive.” The Commissioner's
decision will be reviewed to determine only whether the
decision was supported by substantial evidence and whether
the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Glenn v. Shalala, 21 F.3d 983, 984 (10th Cir. 1994).
Substantial evidence requires more than a scintilla, but less
than a preponderance, and is satisfied by such evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept to support the conclusion.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
the court is not to reweigh the evidence, the findings of the
Commissioner will not be mechanically accepted. Nor will the
findings be affirmed by isolating facts and labeling them
substantial evidence, as the court must scrutinize the entire
record in determining whether the Commissioner's
conclusions are rational. Graham v. Sullivan, 794
F.Supp. 1045, 1047 (D. Kan. 1992). The court should examine
the record as a whole, including whatever fairly detracts
from the weight of the Commissioner's decision and, on
that basis, determine if the substantiality of the evidence
test has been met. Glenn, 21 F.3d at 984.
Commissioner has established a five-step sequential
evaluation process to determine disability. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520; Wilson v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1139
(10th Cir. 2010). If at any step a finding of disability or
non-disability can be made, the Commissioner will not review
the claim further. At step one, the agency will find
non-disability unless the claimant can show that he or she is
not working at a “substantial gainful activity.”
Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750 (10th Cir.
1988). At step two, the agency will find non-disability
unless the claimant shows that he or she has a severe
impairment. At step three, the agency determines whether the
impairment which enabled the claimant to survive step two is
on the list of impairments presumed severe enough to render
one disabled. Id. at 750-51. If the claimant's
impairment does not meet or equal a listed impairment, the
agency determines the claimant's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e).
The RFC assessment is used to evaluate the claim at both step
four and step five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4); §
404.1520(f), (g). At step four, the agency must determine
whether the claimant can perform previous work. If a claimant
shows that she cannot perform the previous work, the fifth
and final step requires the agency to consider vocational
factors (the claimant's age, education, and past work
experience) and to determine whether the claimant is capable
of performing other jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy. Barnhart v. Thomas, 124 S.Ct.
376, 379-380 (2003).
claimant bears the burden of proof through step four of the
analysis. Blea v. Barnhart, 466 F.3d 903, 907 (10th
Cir. 2006). At step five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to show that the claimant can perform other work
that exists in the national economy. Id.;
Thompson v. Sullivan, 987 F.2d 1482, 1487 (10th Cir.
1993). The Commissioner meets this burden if the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Thompson, 987
F.2d at 1487.
History of Case
Summary of the evidence.
received treatment for several years at Bert Nash Community
Mental Health Center. He was diagnosed in 2011 with
schizophreniform disorder. (R. at 22.) On July 14, 2011, when
Plaintiff was 25 years old, he was referred to Stormont-Vail
Hospital in Topeka for psychiatric inpatient treatment. His
symptoms included impaired thought processes, delusional
thinking, and talking to unseen others. During his stay, his
psychotropic medication was changed from Abilify to
injectable Invega Sustenna (an extended-release
anti-psychotic medication), and he was also treated with
Klonopin for anxiety. He was discharged after eleven days
with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and anxiety disorder. (R.
490, 522.) He declined placement in a residential treatment
center and was referred for outpatient treatment.
Ward, a nurse practitioner who saw Plaintiff on June 20,
2012, noted that Plaintiff's symptoms were in full
remission. (R. at 381.) Plaintiff was receiving monthly
injections of Invega Sustenna and was taking anti-anxiety
medication. His energy was good and his judgment and insight
were fair. (Id.) He expressed concern that his
medication was causing him to gain weight. Plaintiff was
working a night shift job. He reported annual earnings of
more than $18, 000 from 2012 through 2014. (R. 381; 225-26.)
practitioner Ward saw Plaintiff on April 5, 2013, and noted
his compliance with his medication regimen at that point was
poor, and his symptoms (including disorganized thinking and
delusions) were recurring. (R. at 461.) Plaintiff apparently
quit taking Invega Sustenna injections over concerns it was
causing him to gain weight. Ward noted that Plaintiff was
still working but would likely end up back in the hospital
without his medications. Plaintiff agreed to start taking his
medications again. (Id.)
September 19, 2014, nurse practitioner Cora Franklin
completed a “Certificate of Disability” relating
to Plaintiff's request for housing benefits from the
Lawrence Housing Authority. She checked a form indicating
Plaintiff met the definition of disability under the Social
Security Act. (R. at 465.) On October 2, 2014, and again on
May 22, 2015, Franklin completed disability forms stating
that Plaintiff was diagnosed with “295.10 Schizophrenia
Disorganized type” and checked a box indicating the
condition prevented gainful employment. (R. at 464, 466.)
November 10, 2014, nurse practitioner Franklin saw Plaintiff
and noted his mental status had improved with medication; his
thoughts were coherent, organized, and logical; and his mood
was good, although he complained of anxiety and restlessness.
The note stated Plaintiff denied depression but “[l]ost
his job [and had] nothing to do.” (R. at 408.) It
stated Plaintiff was pleasant and responsive but there was
“still some resistance to medication.”
(Id.) Franklin prescribed Hydroxyzine for