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Henry v. Berryhill

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

July 28, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT


         I. Introduction:

         Plaintiff, Scottie Henry, applied for disability benefits on September 24, 2012, alleging disability beginning on March 20, 2006. (Tr. at 32) After conducting a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denied his application. (Tr. at 50) The Appeals Council denied his request for review. (Tr. at 1) The ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the Commissioner, and Mr. Henry has requested judicial review.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court[1] reverses the ALJ's decision and remands for further review.

         II. The Commissioner's Decision:

         The ALJ found that Mr. Henry had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date of September 24, 2012. (Tr. at 34) The ALJ found, at Step Two of the five-step sequential analysis, that Mr. Henry had the following severe impairments: lumbar spine degenerative disc disease s/p remote discectomy, diabetes, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, affective disorder, and anxiety disorder. Id.

         After finding that Mr. Henry's impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment (Tr. at 37), the ALJ determined that Mr. Henry had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work at the unskilled level with additional limitations. (Tr. at 39) He could lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday; sit six hours in an eight-hour workday; and push and/or pull 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. Id. He could understand, remember, and carry out simple job instructions, make judgments in simple work-related situations, respond appropriately to co-workers/supervisors, and respond appropriately to minor changes in the usual work routine. Id.

         The ALJ found that Mr. Henry had no past relevant work. (Tr. at 49) Finally, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a Vocational Expert ("VE") to find that, based on Mr. Henry's age, education, work experience and RFC, Mr. Henry was capable of performing work in the national economy. Id. Based on that determination, the ALJ held that Mr. Henry was not disabled. (Tr. at 50)

         III. Discussion:

         A. Standard of Review

         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 “enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the ALJ's decision." Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2009). The Court must consider not only evidence that supports the Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision, however, “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. Mr. Henry's Arguments on Appeal

         Mr. Henry argues that substantial evidence does not support the ALJ's decision to deny benefits because the ALJ did not incorporate relevant VE testimony in his decision, did not tailor the RFC to Mr. Henry's actual mental limitations, did not assign proper weight to treating and examining physicians, and did not conduct a proper credibility analysis.

         Mr. Henry suffered from mental illness for years, evidenced by multiple hospitalizations, low Global Assistive Functioning (“GAF”) scores, consistent professional counseling, and multiple medication adjustments. In 1992, Mr. Henry was hospitalized for suicidal ideation. (Tr. at 344-346) In 2007, he was admitted to St. Vincent's acute psychiatric unit for suicidal thoughts. (Tr. at 1050-1090) His GAF upon admission was 25, and he stayed in the hospital for three days.[2] Id. In September 2008, Mr. Henry returned to the emergency room with suicidal ideation. (Tr. at 1032) In October and November 2009, Mr. Henry was again seen in the emergency room at St. Vincent Infirmary for suicidal ideation. (Tr. at 768-771, 899-902, 996-1001, 1026-1028)

         Mr. Henry began counseling sessions at Professional Counseling Associates in early 2009, which he continued intermittently through late 2011. (Tr. at 467-508, 1359-1404) On January 29, 2009, he tested in the high range for distractibility and inattention. (Tr. at 1359) On November 5, 2009, he reported trouble sleeping, hearing voices, seeing figures, and having impulse control problems. (Tr. at 1364) His provider at Professional Counseling Associates ...

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