United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
KRISTI J. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRADLEY MURRAY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Kristi J. Anderson 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
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”) and for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), based on
disability, under Title XVI of the Act. 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. 21 (“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.”)). See
also Doc. 23. Upon consideration of the administrative
record, Anderson's brief, the Commissioner's brief,
and the arguments made at the hearing on May 9, 2018 before
the undersigned Magistrate Judge, it is determined that the
Commissioner's decision denying benefits should be
applied for DIB, under Title II of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423-425, and for SSI, based on disability, under
Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383d, on
August 12, 2014, alleging disability beginning on April 25,
2014. (Tr. 200, 207). Her application was denied at the
initial level of administrative review on December 18, 2014.
(Tr. 135-39). On December 29, 2014, Anderson requested a
hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (Tr. 144).
After a hearing was held on June 15, 2016, the ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision finding that Anderson was not under a
disability from the date the application was filed through
the date of the decision, September 2, 2016. (Tr. 17-33).
Anderson appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals
Council, and, on June 21, 2017, the Appeals Council denied
her request for review of the ALJ's decision, thereby
making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Tr. 1 -6).
exhausting her administrative remedies, Anderson 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
November 2, 2017. (Docs. 12, 13). Both parties filed briefs
setting forth their respective positions. (Docs. 15, 16).
Oral argument was held on May 9, 2018. (Doc. 22). The case is
now ripe for decision.
CLAIM ON APPEAL
alleges that the ALJ's decision to deny her benefits is
in error for the following reason:
1. The ALJ erred by failing to properly evaluate whether her
impairment is of a severity to meet or equal Listing 12.05B.
(Doc. 15 at p. 1).
was born on May 3, 1967, and was 47 years old at the time she
filed her claim for benefits. (Tr. 200). Anderson initially
alleged disability due to back problems, hearing loss in her
left ear, hand problems, depression, insomnia, and restless
leg syndrome. (Tr. 235). At the hearing, in addition to these
limitations, she also alleged that tendonitis in her hip and
being slow, mentally and physically, keep her from being able
to work. (Tr. 52). Anderson graduated from high school with a
regular diploma in 1985, but was in special education classes
in some subjects. (Tr. 44, 236). At the time she filed her
application, she was working part-time at a fast food
restaurant as a cook, but she was terminated from that
employment between the date of filing her application and
testifying at the hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 45-46,
236-37). She has previously worked at fast food restaurants
as a cook and stocker, at carnivals as a game booth and ride
attendant, and at Dollar Tree as a stocker. (Tr. 46-52). At
the time of the hearing, Anderson was living with and taking
care of her husband who had stage four cancer. (Tr. 40-42).
Anderson handles her own personal care, she cooks several
times per week for herself and her husband, she does
household chores, she helps her husband get up and assists
him walking, she walks to the grocery story about two miles
from her apartment and back with her husband just about every
morning, and she pays bills with her husband. (Tr. 41-43,
67-69). She does not have a driver's license because no
one has ever taught her to drive and she doesn't have a
car. (Tr. 42-43). She enjoys seek and find books, reading her
Bible, and attending and volunteering at her church. (Tr. 69,
71). She testified that the only problem she has getting
along with people is when they nag her and that she has no
problems maintaining attention or following directions. (Tr.
70-71). She further testified that other than getting
irritated with people who nag, there are no other ways her
mental issues keep her from being able to work. (Tr. 71).
After conducting the hearing, the ALJ made a determination
that Anderson had not been under a disability during the
relevant time period, and thus, was not entitled to benefits.
considering all of the evidence, the ALJ made the following
findings that are relevant to the issues presented in his
November 2, 2016 decision:
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
borderline intellectual functioning, affective disorder, back
pain, chronic pain syndrome, and hearing loss in the left ear
(20 CFR 414.1520(c) and 416.920(c)).
* * *
4. 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 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526,
416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).
* * *Listing 12.05 is not met. While a full
scale IQ of 57 was assessed by a psychological evaluation
performed in 2012, there is no indication in the document it
was deemed a valid score. 1F. Importantly, that examiner
opined the claimant could do simple type work like
“restaurant work” or “cleaning and
laundry.” 1F. Another psychological evaluation was
performed in 2013 and found a full scale IQ of 64. 13F. The
provider noted that the claimant reported a history of
special education classes. However, the claimant testified
she graduated with a regular diploma. While the claimant has
an IQ between 60 and 70, she has not established deficits in
adaptive functioning sufficient to meet listing 12.05. She
reportedly doesn't drive, but can handle finances,
worked, takes care of her husband who has cancer and is on
disability, cleans the house, and reads. She walks four miles
to the store, picks her husband up and carries him around,
and volunteers at her church. She has worked with money at
her previous ...