United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Terri Greenwood (“Greenwood”) began this case by
filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g). In the
complaint, she challenged the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”), a decision based upon findings
made by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
maintains that the ALJ's findings are not supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. It is
Greenwood's position that her residual functional
capacity was not properly assessed. She so maintains for two
reasons, one of which has merit. Greenwood maintains that the
“meager mental limitations” found by the ALJ are
not supported by the record. See Document 12 at
CM/ECF 16. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees.
is required to assess the claimant's residual functional
capacity, which is a determination of “the most a
person can do despite that person's limitations.”
See Brown v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 535, 538-39
(8th Cir. 2004). The assessment is made using all
of the relevant evidence in the record, but the assessment
must be supported by some medical evidence. See Wildman
v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959 (8th Cir. 2010).
alleges that she became disabled beginning on January 19,
2010. She filed her application seeking supplemental security
income payments on February 20, 2014, and the ALJ denied the
application on June 25, 2015. The Commissioner correctly
maintains that supplemental security income payments are not
payable for any period prior to the filing date of the
application seeking such payments. The Commissioner therefore
maintains, and the Court agrees, that the relevant time
period in this case is from the filing date of the
application, i.e., February 20, 2014, through the
date of the ALJ's decision, i.e., June 25, 2015.
Although evidence prior to February 20, 2014, is outside the
relevant period, the evidence will nevertheless be reviewed
in order to place Greenwood's mental limitations in the
evidence relevant to Greenwood's mental impairments
reflects that she began seeing Dr. Larry Felts, M.D.
(“Felts”) at least as early as January 19, 2009,
for complaints that included depression, anxiety, panic
attacks, and problematic relationships. See
Transcript at 412. At that time, she was taking prescription
medication for depression, anxiety, and psychosis, and the
medication was helping to relieve her symptoms.
thereafter saw Felts on what appears to have been twenty
occasions through November 19, 2013. See Transcript
at 411 (04/07/2009), 410 (07/06/2009), 409 (10/05/2009), 408
(01/04/2010), 407 (03/29/2010), 406 (06/17/2010), 405
(09/09/2010), 404 (12/02/2010), 403 (02/28/2011), 402
(05/26/2011), 399 (09/21/2011), 398 (12/15/2011), 397
(03/14/2012), 396 (07/10/2012), 395 (09/07/2012), 394
(12/05/2012), 393 (02/28/2013), 392 (05/24/2013), 391
(08/22/2013), 390 (11/19/2013). The progress notes reflect
that although Greenwood continued to complain of depression,
anxiety, panic attacks, and problematic relationships, the
severity of her mental problems fluctuated. Felts repeatedly
diagnosed a bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder and
continued Greenwood on medication for her mental problems.
February 11, 2014, Felts signed a “To Whom It May
Concern” letter in which he addressed Greenwood's
limitations caused by her mental impairments. In the letter,
he represented the following:
... I have been treating [Greenwood] for Bipolar Disorder
Mixed with Psychotic Features and Anxiety Disorder NOS. She
has trouble maintaining the stability of her mood. Manic
irritability, pressured speech, and conflicts with peers lead
to her losing her job as a cafeteria worker in the past. She
gets paranoid at times, as well as anxious, obsessively
worried, and impulsive. Concentration and memory are poor.
Panic attacks are less frequent with the help of medication,
but still cause episodes of hyperventilating, shortness of
breath, tachycardia, tremors, etc. Overall, her condition
limits her ability to function at any job. Her condition is
chronic and prognosis is poor.
See Transcript at 388.
thereafter saw Felts on what appears to have been five
occasions between February 17, 2014, and December 9, 2014.
See Transcript at 389 (02/17/2014), 387
(03/17/2014), 385 (06/12/2014), 384 (09/10/2014), 383
(12/09/2014). The progress notes reflect that her mental
symptoms stabilized and even improved despite family
difficulties. For instance, the June 12, 2014, progress
notes reflects that Greenwood was living by herself and
managing her activities of daily living. She reported that
Xanax was helping her panic attacks. See Transcript
at 385. The September 10, 2014, progress note reflects that
she was doing better. See Transcript at 384.
3, 2014, Greenwood was seen by Dr. Samuel Hester, Ph.D.
(“Hester”) for a mental diagnostic evaluation.
See Transcript at 321-329. He recorded her medical
history and noted, inter alia, her complaints of,
inter alia, anxiety and insomnia. She reported
having been sexually and physically abused as a child. She
additionally reported that her father was a “physically
abusive alcoholic, ” and there was “a lot of
drama always in the family.” See Transcript at
321. She was taking Abilify, Trazodone, Xanax, Gabapentin,
and Mobic, and she reported that the medication “[kept]
her symptoms relatively well controlled.” See
Transcript at 321. With specific regard to her anxiety, she
reported that the medication “likely causes more
sedation and lethargy rather than allowing anxiety to
occur.” See Transcript at 321-322. Hester
observed that Greenwood was appropriately dressed and
groomed, her attitude was good and cooperative, her mood did
not appear to be depressed or anxious, and her affect was
“appropriate to mood” but “seemed a little
dulled by all the medications.” See Transcript
at 323. He additionally observed that her speech did not show
any abnormalities; her thought process was logical; and her
thought content did not display any “overvalued ideas,
no bizarre obsession, [or] preoccupations.”
See Transcript at 324. He observed that she was
alert and fully oriented in all spheres. His diagnoses
included the following impairments: post-traumatic stress
disorder, a depressive disorder, and a pain disorder. With
respect to the effects of her mental impairments on her
adaptive functioning, he found the following:
1. How do mental impairments interfere with this person's
day to day adaptive functioning? ... [Greenwood] was able to
drive unfamiliar routes. [She] was reportedly able to perform
most [activities of daily living] autonomously. She does her
own shopping and bill paying. She does not participate in
2. Capacity to communicate and interact in a socially
adequate manner? ... [She] has the capacity to communicate
and interact in a socially adequate manner.
3. Capacity to communicate in an intelligible and effective
manner? [She] has the capacity to communicate in an
intelligible and effective manner.
4. Capacity to cope with the typical mental/cognitive demands
of basic work-like tasks? [Greenwood] can cope with the