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Veillon v. U.S. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

April 12, 2017

DIANNE VEILLON
v.
U.S. COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

          KAY JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          WALTER MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the court is an appeal of the Social Security Administration's denial of the Dianne Veillon's application for disability insurance benefits (Rec. Doc. 1) filed by Ms. Veillon. Both Ms. Veillon and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have submitted briefs in support of their positions (Rec. Docs. 11, 14, 17). For the following reasons, the administrative decision of the SSA will be AFFIRMED.

         FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In 2010, Ms. Veillon was fired from her job as a dietary aide at Byrd Hospital when her depression interfered with her ability to do her job and get along with others. See, e.g., Application, (Rec. Doc. 8, p. 178); Dr. Adams's Psychological Evaluation, (Rec. Doc. 8, p. 378).[1] Ms. Veillon subsequently sought treatment for depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. Between 2010 and 2013, she was hospitalized several times as a high suicide risk. (Rec. Doc. 8, p. 378).

         In 2013, she filed an application with the SSA for disability insurance benefits. In her application, she claimed to suffer from depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline intellectual functioning (BIF), and mild mental retardation (MMR). She claimed that these impairments caused her to lose her job and prevented her from being able to work.

         Her application was denied initially on May 14, 2014, based on her work history, medical history, her consultative expert's (Dr. Adams) opinion, and the SSA's consultative expert's (Dr. Kahler) opinion. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 50-63). Based on his review of Ms. Veillon's medical records, his meeting with Ms. Veillon, and a Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) assessment, Dr. Adams concluded that Ms. Veillon suffered from depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, BIF, and MMR. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 377-81). Dr. Adams also concluded that Ms. Veillon would not be able to withstand a 40-hour work week unless her symptoms lessened. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 377-81). The SSA's consultative expert, Dr. Kahler, based his opinion on Ms. Veillon's medical records, including Dr. Adams's opinion, and he concluded that Ms. Veillon suffered from depression, general anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. After reviewing Ms. Veillon's WAIS assessment, Dr. Kahler did not conclude that Ms. Veillon had medically determinable impairments of BIF or MMR because Ms. Veillon's actual functioning contradicted the results. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 56-58). The initial denial agreed with Dr. Kahler that Ms. Veillon could "perform simple jobs without complex instructions, and ones that do not involve working closely with others." (Rec. Doc. 8, p. 63).

         After the initial denial, Ms. Veillon requested a hearing, which was held before an administrative law judge (ALT) on December 12, 2014, in Alexandria Louisiana. The petitioner, Ms. Veillon; a medical expert, Dr. Stigall; and a vocational expert, Mr. Rue, testified at the hearing. Based on the hearing testimony and the evidence in the record, which included the opinions of Dr. Adams and Dr. Kahler, the ALJ denied the application. The ALJ found that Ms. Veillon's medically determinable impairments included depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder, but that they did not include BIF or MMR. This aligned with the conclusions of Dr. Stigall and Dr. Kahler. She discredited Dr. Adams's conclusion that Ms. Veillon suffered from BIF or MMR and that Ms. Veillon could not withstand a 40-hour work week because Ms. Veillon graduated from high school, attended culinary school, worked for several years, handled her own finances, maintained most aspects of her personal care, interacted with family members, drove a car, and attended church. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 75-77). The ALJ also gave little weight to Dr. Adams's WAIS assessment determination because it was "based largely upon the claimant's subjective reports of daily activities," and Ms. Veillon had a history of exaggerating symptoms. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 76-77).

         Based on Ms. Veillon's medically determinable impairments, the ALJ found that she was limited to "unskilled, simple, routine, and repetitive jobs without quotas; occasional changes to the work setting; occasional work-related decisionmaking; no interaction with the public or coworkers; and occasional interaction with supervisors." (Rec. Doc. 8, p. 73). The vocational expert determined that based on Ms. Veillon's age, work history, education, and the above functional limitations, that Ms. Veillon could find a job as a kitchen helper, cook helper, or dining room attendant. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 44-48). Based on the vocational expert's testimony, the ALJ found that Ms. Veillon was not disabled because she was able to work in these three jobs. (Rec. Doc. 8, p. 79).

         Ms. Veillon requested that the SSA Appeals Council review the ALJ's decision, and on May 10, 2016, the Appeals Council denied the request. (Rec. Doc. 8, pp. 5-7). She then filed this civil action, appealing the SSA's denial of herdisability application. Ms. Veillon appeals the decision on two main grounds: (1) the ALJ did not consider all impairments when determining Ms. Veillon's functional capacity, and (2) the ALJ did not include all relevant limitations in her hypothetical questions to the vocational expert.

         LAW & ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This court's "review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to two inquiries: (1) whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, and (2) whether the Commissioner applied the proper legal standard." Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994)).

Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. It is more than a mere scintilla and less than a preponderance. In applying the substantial evidence standard, the court scrutinizes the record to determine whether such evidence is present, but may not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for the Commissioner's. Conflicts of evidence are for the Commissioner, not the courts, ...

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