United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
NATALIE B. HIGDON, PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
King, United States District Court Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's complaint
seeking judicial review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
of the final decision of the Commissioner denying her claim
for Social Security disability benefits. Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment and Defendant's response in
opposition are at Dockets 14 and 15, and the case is ripe for
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned
Magistrate Judge to determine this case, with any appeal
lying before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Docket 12.
the administrative law judge's (ALJ's) decision is
supported by substantial evidence and in accord with
applicable legal standards, the Court will DENY
Plaintiff's motion (Docket 14), AFFIRM the
Commissioner's final decision, and DISMISS
found that Plaintiff suffers from severe, or vocationally
significant, bipolar disorder and status post liver
transplant, which limit her to a reduced range of light work.
ALJ's decision at administrative record (AR), pp. 17 and
20. Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ's evaluation of
her physical impairment.
found that Plaintiff is not disabled because, although she
can no longer perform her past relevant work, there are a
significant number of jobs in the national economy that she
can perform. AR, pp. 22 and 23.
found that Plaintiff's bipolar disorder results in the
following mental residual functional capacity (RFC):
“The claimant can understand, remember and carry out
both simple and detailed instructions and sustain attention
for both simple and detailed tasks. She can have occasional
interaction with the public and adapt to stress in a more
object-oriented work setting but should avoid noisy job
environments and any strict-quota based work.” AR, p.
mental RFC finding was based, in part, on the ALJ's
acceptance of the testimony of impartial medical expert Tom
L. Wagner, Ph.D. Compare finding at AR, p. 20 and
testimony at AR, pp. 53-54.
January 2015, Plaintiff's treating psychiatrist, David
Meyer, completed the standard mental assessment form, finding
that Plaintiff is no more than moderately limited in 18 of 20
functional areas and markedly limited in 2 of 20 areas.
Specifically, Dr. Meyer found that Plaintiff is markedly
limited in her ability to understand and remember detailed
instructions (she is slightly limited in her ability to
understand and remember simple instructions) and in her
ability to complete a normal workday and work week without
interruptions from psychologically-based symptoms and to
perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number
and length of rest periods. AR, pp. 502-503.
January 2015, Plaintiff's treating therapist, licensed
clinical social worker (LCSW) Whitney Cassity-Caywood, Ph.D.,
completed the same mental assessment form. Whereas Dr. Meyer
found that Plaintiff is markedly limited in her ability to
understand and remember detailed instructions, Dr. Cassity-
Caywood found only moderate limitation. AR, p. 521. Dr.
Cassity-Caywood agreed with Dr. Meyer that Plaintiff is
markedly limited in her ability to complete a normal workday
and work week and to perform at a consistent pace.
Id. Additionally, Dr. Cassity-Caywood found
Plaintiff to be markedly limited in 3 of 20 functional areas
that Dr. Meyer's found Plaintiff to be only slightly or
moderately limited (ability to perform activities within a
schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within
customary tolerances; ability to make simple work-related
decisions; and ability to set realistic goals or make plans
independently of others). Compare AR, pp. 502-503
opinion of the treating sources that Plaintiff is markedly
limited in her ability to complete a normal workday and work
week and to perform at a consistent pace, if accepted, would
render Plaintiff unable to hold any job and, hence, disabled.
discounted this opinion, finding it to be inconsistent with
recent improvement in Plaintiff's condition and her
“impressive array [of] retained abilities” (AR,
p. 21) such as being in the process of writing a book,
journaling, painting, entering work in an art show,
coordinating social events at an art gallery, doing volunteer
work at church, on-line social networking, and visiting
friends in Nashville:
The opinions offered by Dr. Meyer are given partial weight.
Although Dr. Meyer shares a longitudinal treatment
relationship with the claimant, his medical source statement
is inconsistent with his findings that the claimant
experienced improvement as well as that she is capable of
volunteering at a local art gallery. Further, Dr. Meyer
opined the claimant was unable to return to gainful
employment; however, such ...