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Hayes v. Saul

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

October 31, 2019

MISTY MICHELLE HAYES PLAINTIFF
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LANNY KING, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This 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. The fact and law summaries of Plaintiff and Defendant are at Dockets # 16 and 22. 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 # 10.)

         Plaintiff makes two arguments. First, she argues that she is disabled because her mental impairments satisfy Listings 12.02, 12.04, 12.06 and/or 12.15. (Docket # 16 at 6-10.) Second, she argues that she is disabled because, if employed, her migraine headaches would result in an unacceptable rate of absenteeism from the job and her mental impairments would result in an unacceptable rate of absenteeism from the job site (i.e., frequent, unscheduled breaks). (Id. at 10-11.)

         Because Plaintiff's arguments are not persuasive and the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ's) decision is supported by substantial evidence, this Court will AFFIRM the Commissioner's final decision and DISMISS Plaintiff's complaint.

         The ALJ's findings regarding Plaintiff's mental impairments

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from the following severe, or vocationally significant, mental impairments: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood and anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), polysubstance dependence, and antisocial personality disorder. (Administrative Record (AR) at 17.)

         In May 2015, Plaintiff was examined at the request of the Commissioner by licensed clinical psychologist Lisa M. King, Psy.D. Dr. King found, among other things, that Plaintiff's mental impairments result in “marked” limitations in two functional areas, i.e., Plaintiff's abilities to tolerate stress and pressure of day-to-day employment and to respond appropriately to supervisors and coworkers in a work setting. (AR at 1030.)

         In October 2015, in light of Dr. King's findings[1] and the record as a whole, the Commissioner's non-examining program psychologist Ed Ross, Ph.D., completing the standard Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment form. (AR at 136-38.) Dr. Ross found that Plaintiff is “not significantly limited” or “moderately” limited in every area except that she has a “marked” limitation in her ability to interact appropriately with the general public. (AR at 137.)

         The ALJ gave “significant weight” to Dr. Ross' findings and “some weight” to Dr. King's findings. (AR at 21-22.)[2] In this regard, the ALJ noted that Dr. King found that Plaintiff's prognosis is good if she participates in mental health treatment and that Dr. King cautioned that some test results should be interpreted with caution because Plaintiff may have been attempting to portray herself as more impaired than she actually is. (AR at 21 referencing AR at 1029, 1031.)

         Substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff's mental impairments do not satisfy Listings 12.02, 12.04, 12.06 and/or 12.15.

         Plaintiff's first argument is that she is disabled because her mental impairments satisfy the clinical criteria of Listings 12.02 (neurocognitive disorders), 12.04 (depressive, bipolar and related disorders) and/or 12.06 (anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders) of Appendix 1 of the regulations (the so-called Listing of medical impairments). (Docket # 16 at 6-10.) Additionally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in failing to consider whether her mental impairments satisfy Listing 12.15 (trauma- and stressor-related disorders). In keeping with the positions of the parties, the Court will focus on the issue of whether Plaintiff's mental impairments satisfy the so-called paragraph B criteria of Listings 12.02, 12.04, 12.06 and 12.15. The paragraph B criteria of the Listings are identical.[3]

         The paragraph B criteria are satisfied if Plaintiff proves she has “extreme limitation of one, or marked limitation of two, of the following areas of mental functioning”:

1. Understand, remember, or apply ...

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