United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
Ball United States Magistrate Judge
Monet Harris filed for adult child disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income alleging disability
beginning May 1, 2012, because of lupus. After her
applications were denied both initially and upon
reconsideration, she requested and was granted a hearing
before an ALJ. The hearing was held on October 10, 2014, and
on November 26, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding that
Harris was not disabled. The appeals council denied review.
Harris now brings this appeal pursuant to § 205(g) of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Having
considered the memoranda of the parties and the
administrative record, the Court concludes that the decision
of the Commissioner should be reversed and this matter
remanded to the Commissioner.
was born on May 9, 1995, and was (19) years of age at the
time of the ALJ's decision. She was a community college
student at the time of her hearing and has no relevant work
experience. In May of 2012, Harris was admitted to Oschner
Medical Center and diagnosed with systemic lupus
erythematosus (SLE) with multi- organ complications including
class IV lupus nephritis, moderate restrictive lung disease,
pleural effusion, and pericardial effusion.  at 199-206,
R. at 195-202. She was begun on immunosuppressant therapy.
 at 201, R. at 197. Harris was discharged after three
weeks in stable condition.  at 204, R. at 200.
primary physician coordinating Harris's care is Dr.
Kismet Collins, a rheumatologist at Oschner, whom Harris has
seen on a regular basis since her diagnosis. The medical
record indicates that since her hospitalization, she has had
problems with anemia, fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain,
joint pain, depression, and anxiety. Her nephritis has been
stable, as has her shortness of breath.
October 31, 2012, Dr. Collins provided a written statement
summarizing Harris's medical history and prognosis. Dr.
Collins explained that Harris was being treated for SLE
manifested by nephritis, pleuritis, pericarditis, severe
anemia requiring multiple transfusions, and thrombocytopenia.
 at 384, R. at 380. She stated that Harris is on
immunosuppressive medications and antihypertensive
medication. Id. Dr. Collins described Harris's
medications as high-risk and stated that she is at risk for
relapse. Id. Specifically, Dr. Collins noted that
Harris had developed profound neutropenia in August of 2012,
resulting in a temporary discontinuation of her
immunosuppressants. Id. Dr. Collins stated that
Harris would at times be absent from school because of
regular doctor visits and blood work. Id. Dr.
Collins characterized Harris's prognosis as guarded.
Collins completed a lupus impairment questionnaire on July
19, 2013, in which she described Harris's primary current
symptoms as abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, depression,
shortness of breath, ankle swelling, anemia, arthralgia of
the knees, and peripheral edema.  at 432-33, R. at 428-29.
Dr. Collins stated that Harris cannot currently work a 5-day
work week.  at 433, R. at 429. She opined that in a normal
work day, Harris can sit 0-1 hour, can stand/walk 0-1 hour,
can lift no amount, and cannot push, pull, kneel, bend, or
stoop.  at 433-35, R. at 429-31. Dr. Collins estimated
that Harris would likely be absent from work more than three
times a month as a result of her impairments or treatment.
 at 434, R. at 430. Finally, she opined that Harris's
pain and other symptoms were severe enough to interfere
frequently with her attention and concentration.  at 435,
R. at 431.
April of 2014, Dr. Collins wrote a letter to the disability
accommodations office at Harris's community college
requesting that Harris be housed in a private room in order
to reduce her risk of infections.  at 477, R. at 473. A
letter from Dr. Collins to that same office in August of 2014
stated Harris would require leniency with absences and
tardiness.  at 478, R. at 474
included in the record is the evaluation of Dr. Gregory
McCormack, the agency consultant who reviewed Harris's
medical records on April 15, 2013. Dr. McCormack concluded
that Harris has the residual functional capacity to perform
light work.  at 61-63, R. at 57-59.
hearing, Harris testified that she is in her second year of
community college, taking a full load, and maintaining a 3.6
GPA.  at 43-44, R. at 39-40. She receives special
accommodations in the form of a private dorm room and
leniency with tardiness and absences.  at 48-49, R. at
44-45. She estimated that in a typical week she is tardy for
class approximately two or three times and absent one time
due to either illness or medical appointments. Id.
Harris stated that her symptoms include fatigue, arthritis,
shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and abdominal pain.
 at 45, 50, R. at 41, 46. According to Harris, her
arthritis has progressed since her diagnosis, but her
shortness of breath has improved.  at 45, R. at 41. In the
afternoon after her classes, she usually takes a three- or
four-hour nap.  at 48, R. at 44. Harris suffers brief
panic attacks approximately three times per month.  at 50,
R. at 46. She is able to drive but avoids driving long
distances because of arthritis in her elbow and shoulder. 
at 44, R. at 40. Concerning her exertional abilities, Harris
estimated that she could lift or carry two pounds, stand 15
minutes at a time, sit 45 minutes at a time, and walk 100
yards.  at 46-47, R. at 42-43.
decision, the ALJ worked through the familiar sequential
evaluation process for determining disability. He found that
Harris has the severe impairment of stage IV lupus nephritis.
 at 25, R. at 21. At step three, the ALJ determined that
Harris does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.  at
27, R. at 23. The ALJ found that Harris has the residual
functional capacity to perform a wide range of sedentary
work. Id. In making his determinations, the ALJ gave
little weight to the opinions of Dr. Collins.  at 30, R.
at 26. The ALJ considered Harris's subjective
allegations of limitations but found that they were
“less than credible.” Id. At step four,
the ALJ found that Harris has no past relevant work.  at
31, R. at 27. At step five, the ALJ found, based upon the
testimony of a vocational expert, that Harris is capable of
performing the jobs of receptionist, telephone sales worker,
and message taker.  at 32, R. at 28. The ALJ therefore
found that Harris is not disabled. Id.
reviewing the Commissioner's decision, this court is
limited to an inquiry into whether there is substantial
evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner and
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards.
Muse v. Sullivan, 925 F.2d 785, 789 (5th
Cir. 1991); Villa v. Sullivan, 895 F.2d 1019, 1021
(5th Cir. 1990). In support of remand, Harris
argues that the ALJ erred in rejecting the opinion of Dr.
Collins without good cause and without providing the detailed
analysis required by Newton v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 448
(5th Cir. 2000). The Court agrees.
Fifth Circuit has held that generally, a treating
physician's opinion as to the nature and severity of a
claimant's impairment is to be given controlling weight
if it is well-supported by objective medical evidence and not
inconsistent with other substantial evidence. Martinez v.
Chater, 64 F.3d 172, 175-76 (5th Cir. 1995).
However, an ALJ may give less weight, or even no weigh, to a
treating physician's opinion where there is good cause
shown. Greenspan v. Shalala, 38 F.3d 232, 237
special rule applies where there is no opinion of a treating
or examining physician that contradicts the opinion of a
[A]bsent reliable medical evidence from a treating or
examining physician controverting the claimant's treating
specialist, an ALJ may reject the opinion of the treating
physician only if the ALJ performs a detailed
analysis of the treating physician's views ...