United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
DAVID R. JACKSON PLAINTIFF
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
following Recommended Disposition
(“Recommendation”) has been sent to Judge James
Moody. Either party may file written objections to all or
part of this Recommendation. Objections should specifically
explain the factual and legal basis for the objection; and to
be considered, objections must be received by the Clerk of
Court within 14 days of the date of this Recommendation. By
not objecting, parties may waive the right to appeal
questions of fact.
Jackson applied for social security disability benefits with
an alleged onset date of August 7, 2004. (R. at 70). After a
hearing, the administrative law judge (“ALJ”)
denied Mr. Jackson's application for benefits. (R. at
38). The Appeals Council denied his request for review. (R.
at 1). The ALJ's decision, therefore, now stands as the
Commissioner's final decision. Mr. Jackson filed this
lawsuit requesting judicial review.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Jackson had the following severe impairments:
osteoarthritis, obesity, depression, and anxiety. (R. at 28).
Even so, the ALJ found that Mr. Jackson had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary
work, except that he could not engage in frequent stooping,
crouching, climbing, or balancing; he could not be exposed to
concentrated amounts of respiratory irritants such as dust,
fumes, strong odors, or extreme changes in temperature or
humidity; and he was limited to unskilled work, meaning work
where interpersonal contact would be incidental to the work
performed, the complexity of tasks could be learned and
performed by rote, with few variables and requiring little
independent judgment. The supervision required would need to
be simple, direct, and concrete; and he could not deal with
the general public. (R. at 31).
Jackson has no past relevant work. (R. at 36). The ALJ took
testimony from a vocational expert (“VE”), who
testified that a person with Mr. Jackson's age,
education, work experience, and RFC could perform jobs such
as table worker or paster/cutter of small component parts.
(R. 37). The ALJ therefore held that Mr. Jackson was not
disabled. (R. at 37-38).
Jackson argues that the mental RFC is not supported by
substantial evidence and that the ALJ erred in finding that
his anxiety disorder did not meet or equal listing 12.06.
Because the mental RFC assigned by the ALJ is not supported
by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, it is not
necessary to reach Mr. Jackson's other argument.
task of the Court is to determine whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's findings. 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) (citation
omitted). In determining whether the ALJ decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the Court is obligated to
review evidence that supports the Commissioner's
findings, and also, evidence that detracts from the decision.
Milam v. Colvin, 794 F.3d 978, 983 (8th Cir. 2015).
The Court will not reverse the Commissioner's decision,
however, just because there is sufficient evidence to support
a contrary outcome.
Jackson based his application for benefits primarily on his
mental impairments. Testimony from Mr. Jackson and his sister
indicates that he scarcely ever leaves the house unless it is
for something “important.” (R. at 48-52, 57-59).
This is supported by mental health treatment records. Nancy
Bunting, Ph.D., noted that Mr. Jackson did not have a
driver's license, could not shop by himself, and spent
his time watching television, reading, and playing video
games. (R. at 296). She noted anxious mood, restricted or
subdued affect, and a belief that people are talking about
to Dr. Bunting, Mr. Jackson communicated in a “socially
adequate, if dejected, manner.” (R. at 295, 297). She
did find that he was able to attend and sustain concentration
during the interview, could persist, and had the capacity to
complete tasks within an acceptable timeframe. (R. at 297).
As Mr. Jackson points out, however, his impairments are not
cognitive. Dr. Bunting also noted that Mr. Jackson might have
limited frustration tolerance; and he appeared to be honest
and give a fair effort. (R. at 297).
appointment on June 15, 2015, Mr. Jackson stated that he had
panic attacks when leaving his house. In fact, he experienced
multiple panic attacks during the session. (R. at 304). On
July 9, 2015, he had a panic attack in the waiting room. (R.
at 315). He admitted that medication helped, on July 31,
2015, but the provider noted that Mr. Jackson still appeared
anxious. (R. at 316). The record contains a treatment gap
between October of 2015 and April of 2016. (R. at 362). He
was asked to keep appointments. (R. at 362). On April 14,
2016, Mr. Jackson shook throughout the session and stated
that he had been unable to control his panic attacks. (R. at
Commissioner notes that Mr. Jackson reported his anxiety as
“resolved” in June of 2015, and argues therefore
that the statement is inconsistent with his allegations. (R.
at 336). Notes on the preceding page, however, indicate that
he presented with anxiety and that he “has listed
anxiety as resolved, but he was really withdrawn on first
exam.” (R. at 335). He reported an inability to
function because of social anxiety, and the examining nurse
noted that she had known Mr. Jackson since his childhood and
had never seen him in public, though she had seen other
members of his family. (R. at 335).
Commissioner otherwise relies on psychiatric observations
made in the context of physical examinations and normal
cognitive examinations rather than evidence relating to
specifically to agoraphobia or anxiety.
Commissioner also notes that Mr. Jackson had stated to his
mental healthcare providers that he was seeking treatment to
prove his case for Social Security. (R. at 304, 361). On one
of these occasions, Mr. Jackson expressed hope that is
application would be approved so that he could afford medical
treatment and go back to school. (R. at 361). The
Commissioner also argues that Mr. Jackson's failure to
seek treatment weighs against his credibility. As the Eighth
Circuit Court has recognized, however, a mentally ill
person's failure to seek or comply with ...