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. 11, 12, 13.) The Commissioner's
decision is AFFIRMED for the reasons set forth herein.
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 as adequate to support the
conclusion. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
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.
discussing his findings, the ALJ reviewed the testimony and
the medical evidence.Plaintiff has a significant history of
treatment for mental health that dates back to 1995.
Plaintiff has a history of two mental health hospitalizations
and three suicide attempts. In February 2014, Plaintiff
sought treatment for panic attacks and saw Mariam Njoku,
A.P.R.N., at Comcare. The notes reflect that Plaintiff
reported that her panic attacks were worsening; she also
suffered mood instability, and depression. (Tr. at 679.)
Plaintiff was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic
stress disorder, and personality disorder. Plaintiff was
started on medication and a treatment plan. (Tr. at 683-84.)
On March 27, 2014, Plaintiff saw German Gonzalez, M.D. for
medication management at Comcare. She reported that she was
having fewer symptoms with the medications. (Tr. at 685.) Dr.
Gonzalez noted that her mood was neutral, her affect was
congruent and full, her concentration was intact, her thought
form was logical, and her insight and judgment were fair.
(Tr. at 687.)
27, 2014, Plaintiff again saw Dr. Gonzalez. Plaintiff
reported that she had not been working, was having mood
swings, and could not concentrate on task. Dr. Gonzalez
recommended that Plaintiff return to work in one week. (Tr.
at 692.) Again, Dr. Gonzalez noted that her mood was neutral,
her affect was congruent and full, her concentration was
intact, her thought form was logical, and her insight and
judgment were fair. Plaintiff missed her appointment with Dr.
Gonzalez in September 2014. (Tr. at 697.)
December 2014, Plaintiff reported that her medications were
not working but that she had previously been doing better on
Buproprion and Lexapro. Plaintiff reported that she had mood
swings. Dr. Gonzalez adjusted her medications. (Tr. at 700.)
Again, Dr. Gonzalez noted that her mood was neutral, her
affect was congruent and full, her concentration was intact,
her thought form was logical, and her insight and judgment
were fair. Plaintiff's records note that Plaintiff next
saw Dr. Gonzalez on May 1, 2015. The records reflect that
Plaintiff reported mood swings and getting angry easily.
Plaintiff stated that she did not want to take any
medications that would make her gain weight. Dr. Gonzalez
examined Plaintiff and found that her mood was neutral, and
her affect was congruent and full. Plaintiff's memory,
attention and concentration were intact and her thought form
was logical. (Tr. at 19.)
also participated in therapy with Kezia Ramey, L.M.S.W., at
Comcare. On February 8, 2016, Plaintiff's records entered
by Ramey note that she was depressed, just wanted to be alone
and sleep. (Tr. at 940.) On February 10, 2016, Plaintiff met
with Dr. Gonzalez for a medication management appointment.
According to the treatment note, Plaintiff was doing well on
certain medications and reported that she was complying with
the medications. (Tr. at 934.) Again, Dr. Gonzalez noted that
her mood was neutral, her affect was congruent and full, her
concentration was intact, her thought form was logical, and
her insight and judgment were fair. (Tr. at 938.) On that
same date, Dr. Gonzalez completed a medical source statement.
In that opinion, Dr. Gonzalez found that Plaintiff was
moderately limited or markedly limited in categories of
understanding and memory, sustained concentration and
persistence, social interaction, and adaptation. (Tr. at
729-30.) Dr. Gonzalez also opined that Plaintiff would miss
four days of work per month and be off task 25% of the time.
also had individual therapy with Amanda Vann during early
2017. During these sessions, Plaintiff reported depression,
feeling hopeless, and having suicidal ideations. (Tr. at 861,
863, 865.) On May 8, 2017, Kayla Del Rio, A.P.R.N, at the
University of Kansas, completed a medical source statement.
In the opinion, Del Rio opined that Plaintiff would be off
task at work 25% of the time, was incapable of low stress
work and would miss more than four days of work per month.
(Tr. at 1010.) Del Rio ...