Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Noah K. v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 20, 2019

NOAH K.,[1] Plaintiff,
ANDREW M. SAUL,[2] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


          John W. Lungstrum, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff seeks review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits pursuant to sections 1602, and 1614(a) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381a, and 1382c(a) (hereinafter the Act). Finding no error in the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) decision, the court ORDERS that judgment shall be entered pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) AFFIRMING the Commissioner's final decision.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI in October 2015. (R. 64). After exhausting administrative remedies before the Social Security Administration (SSA), Plaintiff filed this case seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in deciding Plaintiff's condition does not meet the criteria of Listing 12.10 for Autism Spectrum Disorder; the record evidence does not support the ALJ's evaluation of the medical opinions of Dr. Espe, Dr. Neufeld, and Dr. Becker; and the ALJ failed to include all of Plaintiff's limitations in the residual functional capacity (RFC) assessed.

         The court's review is guided by the Act. Wall v. Astrue, 561 F.3d 1048, 1052 (10th Cir. 2009). Section 405(g) of the Act provides that in judicial review “[t]he findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The court must determine whether the ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and whether he applied the correct legal standard. Lax v. Astrue, 489 F.3d 1080, 1084 (10th Cir. 2007); accord, White v. Barnhart, 287 F.3d 903, 905 (10th Cir. 2001). “Substantial evidence” refers to the weight of the evidence. It requires more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance; it is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see also, Wall, 561 F.3d at 1052; Gossett v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 802, 804 (10th Cir. 1988).

         The court may “neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute [its] judgment for that of the agency.” Bowman v. Astrue, 511 F.3d 1270, 1272 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Casias v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 933 F.2d 799, 800 (10th Cir. 1991)); accord, Hackett v. Barnhart, 395 F.3d 1168, 1172 (10th Cir. 2005); see also, Bowling v. Shalala, 36 F.3d 431, 434 (5th Cir. 1994) (The court “may not reweigh the evidence in the record, nor try the issues de novo, nor substitute [the Court's] judgment for the [Commissioner's], even if the evidence preponderates against the [Commissioner's] decision.”) (quoting Harrell v. Bowen, 862 F.2d 471, 475 (5th Cir. 1988)). Nonetheless, the determination whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision is not simply a quantitative exercise, for evidence is not substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence or if it constitutes mere conclusion. Gossett, 862 F.2d at 804-05; Ray v. Bowen, 865 F.2d 222, 224 (10th Cir. 1989).

         The Commissioner uses the familiar five-step sequential process to evaluate a claim for disability. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Wilson v. Astrue, 602 F.3d 1136, 1139 (10th Cir. 2010) (citing Williams v. Bowen, 844 F.2d 748, 750 (10th Cir. 1988)). “If a determination can be made at any of the steps that a claimant is or is not disabled, evaluation under a subsequent step is not necessary.” Wilson, 602 F.3d at 1139 (quoting Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084). In the first three steps, the Commissioner determines whether claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset, whether he has a severe impairment(s), and whether the severity of his impairment(s) meets or equals the severity of any impairment in the Listing of Impairments (20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1). Williams, 844 F.2d at 750-51. After evaluating step three, the Commissioner assesses claimant's RFC. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). This assessment is used at both step four and step five of the sequential evaluation process. Id.

         The Commissioner next evaluates steps four and five of the process-determining at step four whether, considering the RFC assessed, claimant can perform his past relevant work; and at step five whether, when also considering the vocational factors of age, education, and work experience, he is able to perform other work in the economy. Wilson, 602 F.3d at 1139 (quoting Lax, 489 F.3d at 1084). In steps one through four the burden is on Plaintiff to prove a disability that prevents performance of past relevant work. Blea v. Barnhart, 466 F.3d 903, 907 (10th Cir. 2006); accord, Dikeman v. Halter, 245 F.3d 1182, 1184 (10th Cir. 2001); Williams, 844 F.2d at 751 n.2. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that there are jobs in the economy which are within the RFC previously assessed. Id.; Haddock v. Apfel, 196 F.3d 1084, 1088 (10th Cir. 1999). Plaintiff has no past relevant work, so the ALJ decided this case at step five of the sequential process. The court addresses the issues in the order raised in Plaintiff's Brief.

         II. Listing 12.10, Autism Spectrum Disorder

         Plaintiff claims his condition meets the criteria of Listing 12.10 because he has a marked limitation in two of the paragraph B criteria of Listing 12.10 - interacting with others, and adapting or managing oneself. Plaintiff makes these assertions based upon a vocational evaluation by Ms. Hunt dated March 26, 2015 (R. 176-81), Dr. Neufeld's report dated February 6, 2015 (R. 294-99), an assessment by the Johnson County Community Developmental Disabilities Organization made for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services dated June 17, 2015 (R. 308-13), a Disability Appeals report dated February 24, 2016 (R. 242-47), and testimony of Plaintiff and his mother at the hearing. (R. 39-58).

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff has a moderate limitation in interacting with others, and no limitation in adapting or managing oneself. (R. 21). Moreover, the ALJ explained the severity definitions for the paragraph B criteria, which is the degree of Plaintiff's ability to function in each area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis:

A “mild limitation” means the claimant functions in this area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis. A “moderate limitation” means the claimant's functioning in this area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis is fair. A “marked limitation” means that the claimant's ability to function in a given area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis is seriously limited. An “extreme limitation” means that the claimant is unable to function in a given area independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis.

(R. 20). The ALJ discussed Plaintiff's ability to function in each of these areas. Id. at 20-21.

         As related to interacting with others, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff attends college at The University of Kansas (KU), resides in a dormitory with a roommate with whom he gets along well, that he attends clubs, and he does not shop independently but is learning to do so at school. (R. 20-21). He noted that Plaintiff plays games such as billiards and table tennis and “the record does not document the claimant having any serious problems in functioning socially when seeking treatment. For example, he is not noted to have had difficulty waiting in public areas, to behave inappropriately with office staff, or to be unable to form a therapeutic rapport with treatment providers.” (R. 21). In light of the ALJ's findings, Plaintiff does not explain how the alleged difficulties to which he points demonstrate that Plaintiff is seriously limited in interacting with others independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis. In fact, the ALJ fairly summarized the reports of Ms. Hunt and Dr. Neufeld, and the allegations of Plaintiff and his mother. He accorded little weight to the opinions of Dr. Neufeld (R. 26) and found the allegations of Plaintiff and his mother “are not entirely consistent with or supported by the record.” (R. 25). Plaintiff has not shown error in the ALJ's analysis.

         The court's consideration of the functional area of adapting or managing oneself is to a similar effect. The ALJ noted the record does not document “serious or greater restrictions” in Plaintiff's “ability to perform routine activities of daily living, such as cleaning, shopping, cooking, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, caring appropriately for his grooming and hygiene, using telephones and directories, and using a post office.” (R. 20). He explained:

During a February 2015 consultative examination, the claimant “denied any difficulty in performing daily tasks of self-care ... and his mother similarly indicated that he completes such tasks without assistance. He indicated that he assists in the completion of some household chores (e.g., getting the mail, butting [sic] away dishes, ‘I vacuum,' etc.). However, both he and his mother indicated that he continues to require supervision and training with regard to such activities (e.g., doing laundry).” (Exhibit 1F/3). The claimant testified that, prior to his enrollment in college, he was generally independent in his activities of daily living. He reported that he was able to perform routine household chores, including vacuuming, laundering clothes, and preparing meals. With regard to meal preparation, the claimant described ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.