United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ALEXIS D. KYLES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Alexis D. Kyles brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review
of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her claim for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), based on
disability. (Doc. 1). The parties have consented to the
exercise of jurisdiction by the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 636(c), for all proceedings in this Court.
(Doc. 15 (“In accordance with the provisions of 28
U.S.C. 636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, the parties in this case
consent to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct any
and all proceedings in this case, . . . order the entry of a
final judgment, and conduct all post-judgment
proceedings.”)). Upon consideration of the
administrative record, Kyles's brief, the
Commissioner's brief, and the arguments of counsel at the
April 26, 2017 hearing before this Court, it is determined
that the Commissioner's decision denying benefits should
be reversed and remanded.
applied for SSI, based on disability, under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 1381-1383d, on June 12, 2013. (Tr. 22). Her
application was denied at the initial level of administrative
review on August 28, 2013. (Tr. 82-86). On October 3, 2013,
Kyles requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge
(ALJ). (Tr. 87). After hearings were held on October 10,
2014, and April 6, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision finding that Kyles was not under a disability from
the date the application was filed through the date of the
decision, April 24, 2015. (Tr. 22-31). Kyles appealed the
ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied her
request for review of the ALJ's decision on August 12,
2016. (Tr. 1-3). After exhausting her administrative
remedies, Kyles sought judicial review in this Court,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). (Doc.
1). The Commissioner filed an answer and the social security
transcript on December 15, 2016. (Docs. 7, 8). After both
parties filed briefs setting forth their respective
positions, the Court conducted a hearing on this matter on
April 26, 2017. (Docs. 9, 10). The case is now ripe for
CLAIMS ON APPEAL
alleges that the ALJ's decision to deny her benefits is
in error for the following reasons:
1. The ALJ failed to consider whether Kyles's impairment
or combination of impairments is of a severity to meet or
medically equal the criteria of Listing 12.05C; and 2. The
ALJ failed to give adequate weight to the opinions of
consulting psychologists Dr. Tocci and Dr. Starkey.
(Doc. 9 at p. 2).
was born on May 17, 1995, and was 18 years old at the time
she filed her claim for benefits. (Tr. 39, 22). Kyles
initially alleged disability due to ADHD and anxiety. (Tr.
70, 211, 245). Kyles graduated from high school and passed a
portion of the Alabama High School Graduation Exam. (Tr. 39).
At the time of the initial hearing on October 10, 2014, she
had recently started working at Wal-Mart . (Tr. 39). She
started working as a cashier, but because of attention and
focus issues, she was moved to housekeeping and maintenance.
(Tr. 40). On April 6, 2015, the ALJ conducted a supplemental
hearing to determine whether Kyles disability equaled a 5.08
listing due to potential anorexia. (Tr. 52-53). At that time,
Kyles was still working at Wal-Mart approximately 32 hours
per week. (Tr. 54). After conducting these two hearings, the
ALJ made a determination that Kyles was not entitled to
benefits. (Tr. 31).
considering all of the evidence, the ALJ made the following
relevant findings in his April 24, 2015, decision:
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
borderline intellectual functioning (BIF); learning disorder,
not otherwise specified; and attention-deficit/hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
These impairments are based on opinions from acceptable
medical sources, and supported by objective test results or
accepted clinical diagnostic practices. I find that these
impairments, either individually or in combination, impose
more than a minimal effect on the claimant's ability to
perform basic work activities. Consequently, they are severe
impairments for the purpose of disability review.
The record does not support the existence of severe physical
impairments (food allergy, acne, anorexia, and low weight),
which is consistent with the assessments provided by the
State agency consultants (Exhibits 1A) and the ME who
testified that the claimant's impairments did not meet or
equal a Listing as testimony regarding her ongoing work
support inferences that the impairments are not physically
severe. In addition, 20 CFR 416.921; Social Security Rulings
(SSRs) 85-28, 96-3p, and 96-4p define an impairment or
combination of impairments is "not severe" when
medical and other evidence establishes only a slight
abnormality or a combination of slight abnormalities that
would have no more than a minimal effect on an
individual's ability to work. I have accorded significant
weight to the State agency assessment as well as the ME, as
the evidence received at the hearing level confirms their
findings. The claimant's source of work-related
impairment derives from her mental impairments, as discussed
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1(20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and
I find that these impairments, singly or in combination,
based upon a review of the medical evidence, do not meet
Listing level severity, and no acceptable medical source has
mentioned findings equivalent in severity to the criteria of
any listed impairment.
The severity of the claimant's mental impairments,
considered singly and in combination, do not meet or
medically equal the criteria of listing 12.02. In making this
finding, I have considered whether the "paragraph
B" criteria are satisfied. To satisfy the
"paragraph B" criteria, the mental impairments must
result in at least two of the following: marked restriction
of activities of daily living; marked difficulties in
maintaining social functioning; marked difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or repeated
episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration. A
marked limitation means more than moderate but less than
extreme. Repeated episodes of decompensation, each of
extended duration, means three episodes within 1 year, or an
average of once every 4 months, each lasting for at least 2
In activities of daily living, the claimant has mild
restriction. The claimant testified that she was able to
perform household chores. The record further shows the
claimant has no problems with tending to all personal needs
as well as preparing simple meals (Exhibits 4E and 3F-4F).
In social functioning, the claimant has moderate
difficulties. The claimant testified that she attends church.
In addition, the record shows she participates in hobbies and
interests two to three times a week; spends time with others
once or twice a week; and gets along well with authority
figures (Exhibits 4E and 3F-4F).
With regard to concentration, persistence or pace, the
claimant has moderate difficulties. The claimant testified
she was able to manage a bank account; drive a motor vehicle;
work; and attend community college. The evidence also reveals
the claimant is able to shop in stores; pay bills; count
change; use a checkbook/money orders; and, she does not need
reminders to go places. However, the record reflects she
requires reminders to brush her teeth and take her
medication; and, she has difficulty completing tasks,
concentrating, and understanding and following instructions
(Exhibits 4E and 3F-4F).
As for episodes of decompensation, the claimant has
experienced no episodes of decompensation, which have been of
* * *
Because the claimant's mental impairments do not cause at
least two "marked" limitations or one
"marked" limitation and "repeated"
episodes of decompensation each of extended duration, the
"paragraph B" criteria ...