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Steinkamp v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

June 15, 2017

ALAN STEINKAMP, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         Claimant, Alan Steinkamp, commenced this action on September 19, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final adverse decision of the Commissioner, affirming the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), and thereby denying his claim for child disability and supplemental security income benefits.[1]

         The court's role in reviewing claims brought under the Social Security Act is a narrow one. The scope of review is limited to determining whether there is substantial evidence in the record as a whole to support the findings of the Commissioner, and whether correct legal standards were applied. See Lamb v. Bowen, 847 F.2d 698, 701 (11th Cir. 1988); Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1253 (11th Cir. 1983).

         Claimant contends that the Commissioner's decision is neither supported by substantial evidence nor in accordance with applicable legal standards. Specifically claimant asserts that the ALJ: (1) should have found him to be disabled under Listings 12.04 and 12.05C; (2) improperly rejected the examining psychologist's opinion; (3) failed to assess the intensity and persistence of claimant's symptoms pursuant to Social Security Ruling 16-3p; (4) and failed to state adequate reasons for finding claimant's testimony to be not credible. Upon review of the record, the court concludes that claimant's argument about Listing 12.05C has merit.

         Listing 12.05C, addressing intellectual disability, states as follows:

Intellectual disability. Intellectual disability 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.
The required level of severity for this disorder is met when the requirements in A, B, C, or D are satisfied.
. . . .
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. . . .

20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, appx. 1, § 12.05C (listings) (italics in original, ellipses supplied).[2]

         There is no question that claimant experienced impairments, other than intellectual disability, that caused significant work-related limitations of function. Indeed, the ALJ found that claimant's attention deficit disorder, history of substance abuse, and bipolar disorder were severe impairments.[3] Thus, the focus of the ALJ's analysis, and of the parties' arguments, has been on claimant's IQ scores and adaptive functioning.

         The ALJ found that claimant did not satisfy Listing 12.05C because he did not have a valid IQ score between 60 and 70.[4] Larry F. Wood, Ph.D., a consultative psychologist, examined claimant on April 3, 2006, when claimant was 15 years old, in connection with a prior claim. Intelligence testing resulted in a verbal comprehension IQ score of 87, a perceptual reasoning IQ score of 65, a working memory IQ score of 68, a processing speed IQ score of 70, and a full scale IQ score of 68. Dr. Wood believed that those test results were valid.[5] He stated that claimant's

performance on intellectual testing was generally consistent with previous test results. His current level of intellectual functioning is at the high end of the Mild Mental Retardation[ range], but he displayed a significant range of abilities across subtests. He has relatively good verbal skills with much lower visual-motor, perceptual, and processing skills. He certainly would benefit from continuing enrollment in specialized educational resources. He should be able to learn simple and repetitive job tasks, but will need specific vocational training to maximize his abilities.

Tr. 423 (alteration supplied). When addressing whether claimant had exhibited a lifelong history of mental retardation, Dr. Wood stated that claimant

has been seen as functioning in the Borderline range of intellectual ability most of his life. Currently, his tested intellectual ability is at the high end of the Mild Mental Retardation range. He should be able to learn simple job tasks, but ...

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