United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Lynda Wilson has appealed the final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying
her claims for supplemental security income. Both parties
have submitted appeal briefs, and the case is ready for
Court's function on review is to determine whether the
Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence on the record as a whole and free of legal error.
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir.
2009); Long v. Chater, 108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir.
1997); see also 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). Substantial
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Reynolds v.
Chater, 82 F.3d 254, 257 (8th Cir. 1996). In assessing
the substantiality of the evidence, the Court has considered
evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision
as well as evidence that supports it.
Wilson alleged she became limited in her ability to work due
to bipolar disorder, osteoarthritis, a heart murmur,
migraines, hepatitis C, and a growth on her kidney. (SSA
record at 538) After conducting a hearing, the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) concluded that Ms. Wilson had
not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social
Security Act at any time from January 17, 2013, the date the
application was filed, through October 20, 2014, the date of
his decision. (Id. at 400) On November 17, 2015, the
Appeals Council denied the request for a review of the
ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-5) Ms.
Wilson then filed her complaint initiating this appeal.
Wilson was forty-seven years old at the time of the hearing
and lived with her boyfriend and boyfriend's adult
daughter. (Id. at 413-14) She had her General
Education Development certificate. (Id. at 414) Ms.
Wilson had not worked since 2005. (SSA record at 415)
found that Ms. Wilson had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since her alleged onset date and that her mild
osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees, mild obesity, migraine
headaches, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and a renal
mass on her right kidney and small cyst on her left kidney
were “severe” impairments. (Id. at 393)
She did not, however, have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled a Listing. (Id. at
395-96) He judged that Ms. Wilson's allegations regarding
the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her
symptoms were not entirely credible. (Id. at 396-98)
on his findings, the ALJ concluded that, during the relevant
time period, Ms. Wilson retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) for light work, except she
should not work around temperature extremes or heavy fumes
and, due to her lack of work history and General Education
Development, was limited to “unskilled, rote
activities.” (Id. at 396) After hearing
testimony from a vocational expert, the ALJ determined that
Ms. Wilson could perform work as a hotel housekeeper and fast
food worker. (Id. at 400) Thus, the ALJ concluded,
Ms. Wilson was not disabled. (Id. at 400)
Wilson claims the ALJ committed error by finding that her
bipolar disorder was not a severe impairment. She also claims
that the ALJ's finding that she could perform light,
unskilled work where she was not exposed to temperature
extremes or heavy fumes is not supported by the evidence.
(#11 at 26-30)
regulations define a “severe” impairment as one
that significantly limits a claimant's ability to perform
basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §416.920(c). At step
two of the five-step analysis, the ALJ assessed whether Ms.
Wilson's alleged impairments were severe. He concluded
that her mild osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees, mild
obesity, migraine headaches, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease, and a renal mass on her right kidney and small cyst
on her left kidney were “severe” impairments, but
that her bipolar disorder was not. (SSA record at 393-95) In
support of his conclusion, he stated that he gave
“great weight” to the opinion of Ken Coon, M.D.,
who performed a consultative examination of Ms. Wilson for
the Commissioner. (Id. at 394) But the ALJ's
conclusion contradicts Dr. Coon's opinion.
Coon described Ms. Wilson's affect and mood as normal.
(Id. at 729) He said she was cooperative, but
restrained and laid-back. She reported having violent
thoughts toward her boyfriend's “ex” and said
that she had suicidal ideation without concrete planning.
(Id. at 730) Her attention and focus were adequate,
but she presented a limited memory and recall of details.
concluded that Ms. Wilson had experienced at least one major
depressive episode and one manic episode; experienced
depression and anxiety daily; had panic attacks when around
crowds of people; and did not like to be around people other
than close family. (Id. at 731) Dr. Coon diagnosed
bipolar disorder and assessed a GAF score of 50-60. He found
that Ms. Wilson was not limited in day-to-day adaptive
functioning. He found she had the capacity to communicate and
interact in a socially adequate manner and could communicate
and interact effectively with one or two familiar people.
(Id. at 732) But, Dr. Coon went on to find that Ms.
Wilson was limited in her capacity to cope with the typical
mental/cognitive demands of basic work-like tasks because she
had trouble following instructions, dealing with authority,
and was subject ...