United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Allen Williams appeals the Social Security
Administration's denial of benefits. The Court has
reviewed his various arguments for reversal, the
government's opposition, and the Magistrate Judge's
Report and Recommendation.
standard of review is familiar:
The responsibility to determine the plaintiff's residual
functional capacity belongs to the ALJ, and in making this
determination he must consider all the evidence in the
record, evaluate the medical opinions in light of other
information contained in the record, and determine the
plaintiff's ability despite her physical and mental
limitations. However, the ALJ may not establish physical
limitations or lack of such limitations without medical proof
to support that conclusion. The ALJ's findings of fact
are conclusive when supported by substantial evidence, but
are not conclusive when derived by ignoring evidence,
misapplying the law or judging matters entrusted to experts.
The ALJ must consider all the record evidence and cannot pick
and choose only the evidence that supports his position.
Jackson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No.
2:11-CV-177-SAA, 2012 WL 1392340, at *3 (N.D. Miss. Apr. 20,
2012) (quotation marks, citations, and brackets omitted).
determining Williams' mental impairments and capacities,
the ALJ considered evidence from Dr. Greg Johns, Dr. Jan
Boggs, and several practitioners from the Weems Mental Health
Center. The ALJ concluded that, with respect to activities of
daily living and social functioning, “there is no
persuasive corroborating evidence of moderate limitation
persisting for any twelve-month period.” The ALJ
further concluded that Williams' “statements
concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects
of these symptoms were not entirely credible.” These
statements supported the ALJ's ultimate determination
that Williams did not meet the standard for disability
benefits. To make these findings, however, the ALJ had to
discard the record evidence.
Exhibit 1A, Dr. Johns of Disability Determination Services
concluded that Williams had “moderate”
difficulties in activities of daily living and social
functioning. Dr. Johns also found that Williams'
statements about the intensity, persistence, and functionally
limiting effects of the symptoms were substantiated
by the objective medical evidence. No record evidence
contradicts these findings. Rather, evidence from
Williams' treating nurse practitioner and supervising
physician bolsters Dr. Johns' findings. See
casting doubt on Dr. Johns' work, the ALJ appears to have
given more weight to Dr. Boggs' report. In Exhibit 3F,
Dr. Boggs expressed doubt with Williams' effort during
the exam, and yet added his observation that “as Mr.
Williams left he had difficulty following directions to the
bathroom.” Dr. Boggs concluded that Williams suffered
from “depressive disorder, NOS”; “does not
appear to be literate”; and “in any case, he
needs as much assistance as he can get.” That is a
startling finding from a consulting psychologist-especially
from one whose opinions are so regularly affirmed by this
Court. E.g., Wirick v. Colvin, No.
3:14-CV-370-CWR-LRA, 2015 WL 4726490, at *3-*4 (S.D.Miss.
July 28, 2015); Fielder ex rel. T.T. v. Colvin, No.
3:13-CV-1075-HTW-LRA, 2014 WL 3783321, at *4 (S.D.Miss. July
Boggs conducted his examination in September 2013. More than
a year and a half later, the ALJ issued a decision finding
that Williams' depression had improved in 2014 and 2015
under treatment at the Weems Mental Health Center. That was a
curious conclusion, however, given that earlier in her
decision the ALJ found that Weems records were unreliable
because “that provider is not an acceptable medical
source.” It appears that doctors and records were valid
and useful to the extent they confirmed the ALJ's
impressions, but reasons were found to disparage them when
they contradicted the ALJ's impressions.
case, all of the people to treat Williams, examine him, or
review his records ended up with a less favorable view of his
mental capacities than the ALJ. The Court concludes that the
Social Security Administration violated the well-established
principle “that the ALJ must consider all the record
evidence and cannot ‘pick and choose' only the
evidence that supports his position.” Loza v.
Apfel, 219 F.3d 378, 393 (5th Cir. 2000) (collecting
extent the ALJ saw conflicting evidence about Williams'
impairments and capacities, especially the prospect of
successful treatment of his symptoms, she could have sought
more information from a treating or consulting physician.
See Jackson, 2012 WL 1392340, at *3. That did not
happen. Accordingly, the case must be remanded for further