United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
GARY E. KNOTTS PLAINTIFF
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
HONORABLE MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Gary E. Knotts, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) seeking judicial review of a decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security Administration (Commissioner)
denying his claim for a period of disability, disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”), and supplemental
security income (“SSI”) under the provisions of
Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (the
“Act”). In this judicial review, the Court must
determine whether there is substantial evidence in the
administrative record to support the Commissioner's
decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g).
filed his applications for supplemental security income (SSI)
and disability insurance benefits (DIB) on July 26, 2011, due
to left ankle problems and ADHD. (ECF No. 17, pp. 71-77,
83-89). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of December 30, 2009.
(ECF No. 17, pp. 71, 83). His claims were denied initially on
September 7, 2011, and upon reconsideration on October 28,
2011. (ECF No. 17, pp. 58-62). An administrative hearing was
held on April 24, 2013 in Fort Smith, Arkansas before the
Hon. Edward M. Starr, Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (ECF No. 17, pp. 259-288). Plaintiff
appeared in person and was not represented by counsel,
although it was noted that he had sought counsel. (ECF No.
17, pp. 261, 263-264). On May 13, 2013, the ALJ requested the
opinion of a Vocational Expert (“VE”), Debra
Steele, via mailed interrogatories. (ECF No. 17, pp.
133-139). Dr. Steele completed and signed the form on May 19,
2013. (ECF No. 17, p. 137).
written decision dated July 3, 2013, the ALJ found
Plaintiff's anxiety and disorder of the ankle to be
severe, but that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or
equal the level of severity of any impairment listed in the
Listing of Impairments. (ECF No. 17, p. 16). After
discounting Plaintiff's credibility, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform sedentary work, but he could
understand, remember, and carry out only simple, routine and
repetitive tasks; respond to usual work situations, routine
work changes, and simple, direct, and concrete supervision;
and, occasionally interact with co-workers and the public.
(ECF No. 17, p. 18). With the assistance of a vocational
expert, the ALJ then determined Plaintiff could perform work
as a surveillance system monitor, charge account clerk,
addressing clerk, and photo copy document preparer. (ECF No.
17, p. 21).
November 7, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review. On December 16, 2016 the Appeals Council
entered an Order adding two exhibits consisting of
correspondence from the Plaintiff to the record. (ECF No. 17,
p. 10). On the same date, the Appeals Council set aside its
earlier denial to consider the additional information, but it
again denied Plaintiff's request for review. (ECF No. 17,
p. 5). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed this action. (ECF No.
1). Both parties have filed appeal briefs (ECF Nos. 10, 12),
and the case is ready for decision.
administrative hearing was held on April 24, 2014. Plaintiff
appeared in person without counsel. (ECF No. 17, p. 259).
Plaintiff had tried to procure counsel from Binder &
Binder, but he was unable to do so before the hearing. (ECF
No. 17, p. 263).
testified that he only made it to the 11th grade in school,
and he never completed a GED. (ECF No. 17, p. 262). His most
recent long-term employment was with Jensen's Enterprises
in 2010. (ECF No. 17, p. 267). He was reportedly let go due
to losing tools and tightening drain plugs too tight, both of
which he blamed on his psychological impairments. (ECF No.
17, pp. 274-275). Thereafter, he worked at Sonic for a short
time but was let go because he was getting orders wrong. (ECF
No. 17, p. 275).
had been incarcerated for battery until approximately one
month prior to the administrative hearing. (ECF No. 17, p.
272). He blamed his actions on his failure to take his
medication. (ECF No. 17, p. 267). While imprisoned, Plaintiff
indicated he was not assigned to work duty because of his
ankle and mental impairments. (ECF No. 17, p. 274).
listed his physical and mental conditions as ADHD and left
ankle problems in his Disability Report. (ECF No. 17, p. 94).
March 2, 2011, Plaintiff presented at Western Arkansas
Counseling and Guidance Center (“WACGC”) for a
diagnostic evaluation. (ECF No. 17, p. 142). He complained of
significant social discomfort rendering him unable to
maintain employment. (Id.). Plaintiff indicated,
however, that he had worked successfully for approximately
two years changing oil, but he quit when they asked him to
train others. (ECF No. 17, p. 144). He also reported
difficulty with restlessness, anger, and road rage, as well
as having an extensive criminal history involving violence.
(ECF No. 17, p. 144). Jerry Stearmen, LPE, completed the exam
and offered diagnoses of social phobia and avoidant
personality disorder. (ECF No. 17, p. 147).
April 4, 2011 Plaintiff went to the WACGC for a diagnostic
evaluation with Advanced Practical Nurse Alice Slavens. (ECF
No. 17, pp. 148-150). Plaintiff reported irritability and an
inability to concentrate that had worsened with age. (ECF No.
17, p. 148). He denied any chronic medical conditions,
surgery, or current medication. (Id.). Plaintiff
stated that he does not like to be around people, especially
crowds. (ECF No. 17, p. 149). Despite having a learning
disability and being in special education, he was never
tested for ADHD, although he felt he had the symptoms.
(Id.). APN Slavens diagnosed ADHD, social phobia,
panic disorder with agoraphobia, and avoidant personality
disorder, and she prescribed Straterra. (ECF No. 17, p. 150).
April 12, 2011, APN Slavens and Dr. Angela Chapman completed
a master treatment plan for the Plaintiff. The diagnoses were
social phobia, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and avoidant
personality disorder. (ECF No. 17, ...