United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
Bryan Morgan (“Morgan”), applied for disability
benefits on October 13, 2017, alleging disability beginning
on January 1, 2013. (Tr. at 12). After conducting a hearing,
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) entered her
decision denying benefits. (Tr. at 31). The Appeals Council
denied Morgan's request for review. (Tr. at 1). Thus, the
ALJ's decision now stands as the final decision of the
reasons stated below, the Court reverses the Commissioner's
decision and remands the case for further proceedings.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Morgan had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity from January 1, 2016 through September 30, 2018,
Morgan's date last-insured. (Tr. at 14). At Step Two, the
ALJ found that Morgan has the following severe impairments:
chronic knee joint pain, chronic posttraumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”), and unspecified depressive
disorder with anxious distress. Id.
finding that Morgan's impairments did not meet or equal a
listed impairment (Tr. at 15-17), the ALJ determined that
Morgan had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a full range of light work,
except that: (1) he could perform simple, routine, and
repetitive tasks; (2) he could make simple work-related
decisions; (3) he could concentrate, persist, and maintain
pace with normal breaks; (4) he would require incidental
interpersonal contact with co-workers but he could not
perform work with the public; and (5) he would require
simple, direct, and concrete supervision. (Tr. at 17).
found that, based on Morgan's RFC and testimony from the
Vocation Expert (“VE”), he was unable to
perform his past relevant work. (Tr. at 28-29, 60). Relying upon
the testimony of a Vocational Expert (“VE”), the
ALJ found that, based on Morgan's age, education, work
experience and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in
the national economy that he could perform, including
positions as Cleaner/Janitor (light physical
exertion, unskilled, SVP 2) and Hand Packer
(light physical exertion, unskilled, SVP 2). (Tr. at 30).
Thus, the ALJ held that Morgan was not disabled. Id.
Standard of Review
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 whether it is based on
legal error. Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477
(8th Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). While “substantial evidence” is that
which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion, “substantial evidence on the record as a
whole” requires a court to engage in a more
“[O]ur review is more than an examination of the record
for the existence of substantial evidence in support of the
Commissioner's decision; we also take into account
whatever in the record fairly detracts from that
decision.” Reversal is not warranted, however,
“merely because substantial evidence would have
supported an opposite decision.”
Reed v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 917, 920 (8th Cir. 2005)
not the task of this Court to review the evidence and make an
independent decision. Neither is it to reverse the decision
of the ALJ because there is evidence in the record which
contradicts his findings. The test is whether there is
substantial evidence in the record as a whole which supports
the decision of the ALJ. Miller, 784 F.3d. at 477.
Morgan's Arguments on Appeal
contends that substantial evidence does not support the
ALJ's decision to deny benefits. Specifically, he argues
that: (1) the ALJ gave too much weight to the opinion of the
consultative psychological examiner; (2) the RFC did not
incorporate all of Morgan's limitations; and (3) the ALJ
failed to properly develop the record. As a result of those
errors, and other errors committed by the ALJ at Steps Four
and Five of her sequential disability analysis, Morgan argues
that the decision in this case must be reversed and remanded.
is a 52-year-old war veteran of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2016, he was assigned a 100% disability rating by the
Veterans' Administration (“VA”) based on the
severity of his PTSD. (Tr. at 43, 49-50, 737). According to
Morgan, during the Iraq War, his base in Kuwait was blown up
and he saw many people die. (Tr. at 514, 618-620). He
continues to struggle with nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia,
explosive rage, anxiety, road rage, suicidal tendencies, and
addiction, as a result of his PTSD. (Tr. at 18-20, 709-722).
At the administrative hearing, Morgan testified that, during
times of stress, a switch gets flipped and he wants to kill
someone. (Tr. at 51-55, 514).
second wife, Tara, filed for three Orders of Protection in
2011 and 2012, for his death threats and harassment of her
and their two children. (Tr. at 214-264). At one point,
Morgan was harassing Tara's coworkers. (Tr. at 272).
Morgan's first wife, Kimberly, filed an Order of
Protection in 1996 for similar reasons. (Tr. at 242).
had trouble keeping a job because of his PTSD symptoms and
explosive behavior. He worked at the U.S. Postal Service
(“USPS”) in 2012 as a Postal Clerk Supervisor.
(Tr. at 29, 47). Because of a confrontation with a coworker,
the USPS sent Morgan for a mental evaluation, which was
performed by William Fulliton, Ph.D. (Tr. at 794-797).
According to Dr. Fulliton's report, dated January 5,
2012, Morgan had higher than normal levels of anger,
triggered by insomnia. (Tr. at 47, 794-797). Based on
Morgan's PTSD, insomnia, and depression, Dr. Fulliton
found that “it is likely that [Morgan] will be unable
to maintain emotional stability and the ability to work
closely with others, without further treatment.” (Tr.
at 796-797). Dr. Fulliton said that Morgan's
aggressive and explosive behaviors were “not
pathological of themselves, but describe someone who will
likely find it challenging to work in a team.”
on Dr. Fulliton's findings, the USPS demoted Morgan from
Postal Clerk Supervisor to Mail Sorter, and required him, as
a special accommodation, to work in a room in complete
isolation from his coworkers and supervisors. (Tr. at 19,
47-48). In April 2012, the USPS fired Morgan for allegedly
stealing American flags from work. (Tr. at 194, 199-201).
2013, Morgan attended barber school and began working as a
barber in 2015. (Tr. at 48-51). However, in 2016, he was
fired by the head barber, after only a few months of working,
because of his contentious behavior toward customers.
Id. According to Morgan, he could not find a job
after that because of his reputation for having a short
Medical Evidence Documenting Morgan's LongStanding
Struggles With Chronic PTSD And ...