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Devoti v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

July 28, 2016

JOCELYN JOY DEVOTI PLAINTIFF
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER

         Jocelyn Joy Devoti seeks review of the Commissioner’s decision to deny her claims for disability benefits. Ms. Devoti filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (the “Act”). (R. at 80) Ms. Devoti’s claims were initially denied, and she requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (18) The ALJ determined that Ms. Devoti was not disabled under Title II of the Act. (30) The Appeals Council denied Ms. Devoti’s request for review, thus making the ALJ’s decision the Commissioner’s final decision. (1)

         Ms. Devoti claimed disability based on generalized anxiety disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. (80) The parties consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge, and the case is ripe for decision.

         I. The Commissioner’s Decision

         The ALJ found that Ms. Devoti had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of May 31, 2011. (20) After addressing step 1 of the sequential five-step evaluation process, the ALJ found at step 2 that Ms. Devoti had the following severe impairments: attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. (20) At step 3, the ALJ determined that Ms. Devoti’s impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment. (21)

         Before proceeding to step 4, the ALJ determined that Ms. Devoti had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work, but with added limitations. The work must consist only of simple, routine, repetitive tasks with only incidental interpersonal contact, where supervision is simple, direct, and concrete. (21) Fine hearing could not be required. (21) The ALJ found that Ms. Devoti’s medically determined impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms, but her statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects were not entirely credible. (23) The ALJ considered Ms. Devoti’s complaints regarding her pain, treatment, and medication in arriving at the conclusion that she could perform medium work with additional limitations.

         After considering Ms. Devoti’s age, education, work experience, and residual functioning capacity, the ALJ found that jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Ms. Devoti could perform. (28) Consequently, the ALJ found that Ms. Devoti was not disabled. (30)

         II. Discussion

         A) Standard of Review

         Ms. Devoti’s points on appeal are intertwined and can be narrowed to two arguments: 1) the ALJ’s decision is not supported by substantial evidence; and 2) Ms. Devoti met a listing. The Court’s role is to determine whether the Commissioner’s findings are supported by substantial evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this context means less than a preponderance but more than a scintilla. Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009). In other words, it is “enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ’s decision.” Id. (citation omitted). The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the Commissioner’s decision, but also evidence that supports a contrary outcome. Even so, the Court cannot reverse the decision, “merely because substantial evidence exists for the opposite decision.” Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Johnson v. Chater, 87 F.3d 1015, 1017 (8th Cir. 1996)).

         B) Commissioner’s decision supported by substantial evidence

         Ms. Devoti’s only argument as to substantial evidence is that she was traumatized by being involved in the sex slave trade as a youth. (Pl. Brief at 3). There is no mention in the record of Ms. Devoti being sold into slavery. Notwithstanding Ms. Devoti’s failure to make a grounded argument that the ALJ’s decision was not based on substantial evidence, the Court finds broad support for the Commissioner’s decision.

         The ALJ detailed Ms. Devoti’s treatment by several doctors. Under the treating-physician rule, an ALJ must give a treating physician’s opinion “controlling weight” if it “is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence.” Dolph v. Barnhart, 308 F.3d 876, 878-79 (8th Cir. 2002). See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(c)(2). She saw Dr. Joe Daugherty only four times from November 2011 to January 2014. (22) Dr. Daugherty did not prescribe medications regularly, and the check-ups mainly focused on gynecological or urinary tract complaints. (23) On June 4, 2013, Dr. Daugherty reported that her mood and effect, orientation, and memory were within normal limits. (298)

         Ms. Devoti saw Dr. Thomas Stinnett three times from May 2011 to August 2011. (22) He diagnosed her with moderate major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. (Id.) He reported that at last contact, she said she was feeling better. (Id.)

         Dr. James Moneypenny saw Ms. Devoti for a mental status consultative evaluation on October 4, 2012. (Id.) He diagnosed her with post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and borderline personality disorder. (Id.) He noted that her capacity to adapt and adjust on an interpersonal basis in a work setting, as well as her ability to attend and sustain concentration, were poor. (Id.) ...


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