United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KING, 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 his claim
for Social Security disability benefits. Plaintiff filed a
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Docket #23), to which
Defendant responded in opposition (Docket # 30), and the case
is ripe for determination. The 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 # 18).
a former combat veteran, applied for disability benefits
through the Veterans Administration (VA). The VA adjudicated
him to be 70-percent disabled due to service-connected post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, effective December 3,
2014, increased his disability rating to 100 percent based on
the December 3, 2014 findings and opinions of VA clinical
psychologist Anne Goodnow, Psy.D. Adjudication at
Administrative Record (AR), p. 297; findings at AR, pp.
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c) requires that “[r]egardless
of its source [e.g., the VA], we [i.e., the Social Security
Administration] will evaluate every medical opinion we
receive.” The Administrative Law Judge's
(ALJ's) mental residual functional capacity (RFC) finding
did not accord with applicable legal standards because the
ALJ's decision did not “evaluate” (or even
mention) Dr. Goodnow's assessment.
the Court will GRANT Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on
the Pleadings (Docket # 23) and REMAND this matter to the
Commissioner for a new decision evaluating Dr. Goodnow's
findings and opinions.
performing the requested review of the ALJ's mental RFC
determination, the Court considered Dr. Goodnow's
argues that the ALJ's mental “RFC determination is
not supported by substantial evidence” (Docket # 23-1,
p. 10), and he gives six supporting reasons (Id.,
pp. 11-16). The fourth reason is the VA's December 3,
2014 increase of disability rating to 100 percent. According
to Plaintiff: “[t]his change was based on total
occupational and social impairment; difficulty in adapting to
work, stressful circumstances, and worklike setting;
disturbances of motivation and mood; difficulty in
establishing effective work and social relationships;
impairment of short- and long-term memory; mild memory loss;
depressed mood; chronic sleep impairment; anxiety; and
suspiciousness” (Docket # 23-1, p. 15 referring to VA
Reasons For Decision at AR, p. 297).
reasons for changing its disability rating cited by the VA
correspond precisely to the clinical symptoms identified by
Dr. Goodnow in her completion of the PTSD Disability Benefits
Questionnaire (AR, pp. 1547-48). While Plaintiff's
Memorandum in Support of Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
(Docket # 23-1) does not specifically mention Dr. Goodnow by
name, the Court will exercise its discretion to consider Dr.
Goodnow's findings and opinions contained in her
completion of the PTSD Questionnaire (AR, pp. 1541-48) in
reviewing the ALJ's mental RFC determination.
ALJ erred in not evaluating the weight given to Dr.
is a veteran of the Gulf War Era, having served in the Army
from September 22, 1998 through November 26, 2013. AR, p.
296. He was deployed to Iraq on three occasions. During his
first deployment from February 2003 through February 2004, he
was engaged in heavy firefights, which resulted in his
witnessing many deaths. (AR, pp. 733-734). One particularly
traumatic event occurred when he was forced to kill a young
boy who was about the same age as his 10 year old son.
(Id.) The Iraqi boy had an AK-47, and Plaintiff felt
his life was in danger. (Id.) During Plaintiff's
second deployment from April 2005 through April 2006, his
unit provided route security, his convoy took direct and
indirect fire daily and experienced a No. of improvised
explosive device (IED) attacks. (Id.)
his third deployment from April 2008 through April 2009,
Plaintiff provided personal security detail, engaged in
firefights, mortar fire, and rocket attacks. (Id.)
Plaintiff never felt safe. (Id.)
Goodnow's PTSD Questionnaire tracks Criteria A through H
of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
Fifth Edition (DSM-5). According to Dr. Goodnow,
Plaintiff's A through H Criteria ratings are as follows
(AR, pp. 1545-47):
to actual or threatened a) death, b) serious injury, c)
sexual violation, in one or more of the following ways:
• Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s)
• Witnessing, in person, the traumatic event(s) as they
occurred to others.
of (one or more) of the following intrusion symptoms
associated with the traumatic event(s), beginning after the
traumatic event(s) occurred:
• Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing
memories of the traumatic event(s)
• Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content
and/or affect of the dream are related to the ...