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A.E.S. v. Social Security Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

September 3, 2019

A.E.S. (XXX-XX-1765)
v.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

          FOOTE, JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Mark L. Hornsby, U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Introduction

         A.E.S. (“Plaintiff”) was born in 1997. He completed the 10th grade but was unable to obtain a GED. Despite attempts to work, he has never had gainful employment. He filed for Supplemental Security Income due to his bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), and degenerative disc disease.

         ALJ Mary Abbondondelo held an evidentiary hearing and issued a written decision in which she found that Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeals Council denied a request for review, which made the ALJ's opinion the Commissioner's final decision. Plaintiff filed this civil action to seek the limited judicial relief that is available under 42 USC § 405(g). For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

         Summary of the ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ analyzed the claim pursuant to the five-step sequential analysis established in the regulations. Tr. 63-73. See Perez v. Barnhart, 415 F.3d 457, 461 (5th Cir. 2005). At step one, she found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of his application for benefits. At step two, she found that Plaintiff had bipolar disorder, ADHD, and degenerative disc disease lumbar spine, impairments that are severe within the meaning of the regulations, but not so limiting as to meet or equal a listed impairment at step three that would require a finding of disability without consideration of other factors.

         Before going from step three to step four, the ALJ must assesses a claimant's residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which is the most the claimant can still do despite his limitations. The claimant's RFC is used at steps four and five to determine if the claimant can still do past relevant work or adjust to other jobs that exist in the national economy. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform light work, except that he could have only occasional contact with supervisors, coworkers, and the public, and he was limited to Specific Vocational Preparation (“SVP”) level 2 work.[1]

         Plaintiff did not have any past relevant work, so the ALJ found in his favor at step four. Step five asks whether the claimant, considering his age, education, work experience, and RFC, can perform the demands of other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the economy. A vocational expert testified that a person with Plaintiff's RFC and other factors could perform the demands of price marker and cafeteria attendant, both of which are light jobs rated SVP 2. The ALJ accepted that testimony and found at step five that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the law.

         Issues on Appeal

         Plaintiff's brief identifies three issues for appeal:

1. The ALJ erred in giving little weight to the opinion of the treating psychologist, Dr. George S. Park, PhD.
2. The ALJ erred in giving great weight to the opinion of the examining psychological source, Dr. Krenek, PhD.
3. The ALJ erred in applying the wrong standard in evaluating Plaintiff's statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of his symptoms.

         Standard of Review; Substantial Evidence

         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, 415 F.3d at 461. “Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla and less than a preponderance.” Masterson v. Barnhart, 309 F.3d 267, 272 (5th Cir. 2002). It is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 236 (5th Cir. 1994). A finding of no substantial evidence is justified only if there are no credible evidentiary choices or medical findings which suppor t the AL J's determinatio n . Johnson v. Bowen, 864 F.2d 340, 343-44 (5th Cir. 1988).

         Relevant Evidence

         A. Hearing Testimony

         Plaintiff testified at a hearing in February 2017. He was accompanied by an attorney. He testified that he was 19 years old, lived in a mobile home with his girlfriend, and was not working. He had attempted to work several jobs, but none of them amounted to much or produced much income. Some of his job attempts included a half-day high school program where he worked for a small engine shop, making repairs on his own, and ...


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