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Jones v. Berryhill

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

March 12, 2018

AMANDA DOROTHY JONES PLAINTIFF
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          F. KEITH BALL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This cause is before the Court regarding the appeal by Amanda Dorothy Jones of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Jones's application for a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”), and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). In rendering this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court has carefully reviewed the Administrative Record [13] regarding Jones's claims (including the administrative decision, the medical records, and a transcript of the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")), Plaintiff's Motion [16] and Memorandum [17], and Defendant's Response [18] and Memorandum [19]. The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [14], and the District Judge has entered an Order of Reference [15]. 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73.

         For the reasons discussed in this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the undersigned finds that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Jones filed her application for a period of disability, DIB, and SSI on February 26, 2014, and alleged a disability onset date of November 1, 2007, when she was twenty years of age. [13] at 90, 168.[1] In her application, she alleged that she was disabled due to a learning disability; knee, shoulder, and ankle problems, including chronic pain in those joints; depression; granuloma annulare; a learning disability; premenstrual dysphoric disorder; depth perception; short term memory loss; and “tail bone not straight.” Id. at 99, 174. At the time of her application, she was five feet, three inches tall, and weighed one hundred pounds. Id.

         Jones was born on December 29, 1986. Id. at 99. Thus, she was considered a “younger individual” at the time of her onset date of November 1, 2007, and on the date the ALJ issued his decision, February 29, 2016. Id. at 24. She first became insured on April 1, 2008, and was last insured on March 31, 2010. Id. at 90. Jones attended special education classes through the twelfth grade, and she received a certificate of completion when she finished high school in 2006. Id. at 38, 175. She completed a class on floral design at a local college. Id. at 38-39.

         Jones has a brief work history. She worked as a drug store stock clerk from March to May 2006. Id. at 98. Thereafter, she worked for two months at a grocery store as a clerk in the in the produce department, where she cut and displayed fruit. Id. at 44-45, 167. From June 2006 to May 2009, she worked as a cleaner for an industrial cleaning company, at which her mother was her direct supervisor. Id. at 45-47. During the hearing before the ALJ, her mother testified that Jones would work only one to two days out of a week during her employment at the cleaning company. Id. at 81. At the hearing, both the claimant and her mother testified that Jones does not have a driver's license. Id. at 51-52, 85.

         The Social Security Administration denied Jones's application initially and upon reconsideration. Jones requested a hearing, which was held on February 12, 2016, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Id. at 29. At the hearing, she was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert testified. Id. On February 29, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Jones was not disabled. Id. at 14-24. The Appeals Council denied her request for review on May 11, 2016, id. at 1, and this appeal followed.

         II. MEDICAL HISTORY

         Although the briefs have summarized Jones's medical history, a review of Plaintiff's medical conditions will aid in the consideration of this case. The records show that Jones had a history of endometriosis and abdominal pain, for which she underwent a complete hysterectomy in October 2015. [13] at 426, 437. At the hearing in February 2016, she testified that the surgery had helped her abdominal pain. Id. at 57.

         At the hearing, Jones testified that she was born with birth defects that were the source of pain in her right knee, right ankle, and right shoulder. Id. at 48-50. She explained that both of her knees pointed to the right, and that her right shoulder was too big for her body. Id. at 49. Although a shoulder sprain was first identified on April 10, 2007, Jones did not complain of joint pain at a routine visit two days later with her treating nurse practitioner, Jodi T. Powell, APRN-NPC. Id. at 486-487. At subsequent, routine appointments in April 2011 and March 2014, Jones reported “no arthralgias, ” but complained of shoulder joint pain in March 2014. Id. at 470-471, 478. At a September 2014 routine check up with Powell, Jones complained of generalized joint pain, and Powell commented that Jones had “scoliosis to the right.” Id. at 464-465. However, in January 2016, Powell treated Jones for a rib contusion resulting from “rough housing” with friends. Id. at 458. At the same appointment, Jones denied joint stiffness. Id. at 459.

         Powell also initially diagnosed with Jones with seasonal pattern depression in March 2014, which coincided with the dissolution of her marriage. Id. at 470-472. At that time, Powell prescribed Lexapro, which she renewed for Jones at a subsequent check up in September 2014. Id. at 464. At that check up, Jones reported that she thought the Lexapro was helping. Id. After a routine visit in March 2015, Powell commented that Jones was currently in therapy. Id. at 462.

         In September 2014, Jones sought a psychological evaluation from the Pearl River County Hospital, where a nurse practitioner saw her. Id. at 418. The nurse practitioner diagnosed Jones with depression, and she noted that Jones's condition was currently responding to treatment. Id. at 419. From September 2014 until January 2015, Jones sought treatment on three occasions from the same nurse practitioner, who prescribed a sleep aid and medication for treatment of depression, and who commented that Jones's condition was responding to treatment. Id. at 421, 423, 425. It does not appear that she sought psychological counseling on a regular basis until February 2016, about the time of her hearing. Id. at 510.

         Patsy H. Zakaras, Ph.D., conducted a consultative psychological evaluation of Jones in July 2014. Id. at 404. Dr. Zakaras described Jones as “polite and cooperative, ” with “good social skills.” Id. at 405. The examiner also described that Jones was oriented in all spheres, and that her thought processes were logical and goal oriented. Id. Dr. Zakaras administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale IV, on which Jones had a verbal comprehension score of 78, a perceptual reasoning score of 79, a working memory score of 83, a processing speed score of 79, and a full scale IQ score of 75. Id. at 405. Dr. Zakaras also administered the Wide Range Achievement Test IV, which showed that Jones functioned on a third grade level in reading and spelling, and in the upper second grade level in math. Id. Dr. Zakaras diagnosed Jones with a learning disorder, not otherwise specified. Id. Dr. Zakaras concluded that Jones “seems capable of performing simple routine repetitive tasks. She appears capable of following and understanding simple directions. She appears capable of relating to others and interacting with others.” Id. at 406. Dr. Zakaras also concluded that Jones “appears capable of very basic money management but may need some assistance with managing her finances.” Id.

         Jones's treating nurse practitioner, Jodi Powell, and primary care provider, Michael Casey, M.D., signed a Medical Assessment of Ability to do Work-Related Activities, and a Physical Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire on September 28, 2014.[2] Id. at 407-414. In the medical assessment, the form reflects that they diagnosed Jones with Axis I: depression, Axis II: learning disability, Axis III: diffuse joint pain, and Axis IV: divorce. Id. at 407. Regarding occupational adjustments, they concluded that she would have slight limitations in her ability to relate to co-workers and interact with a supervisor. Id. at 408. They found that she would have moderate limitations in her ability to follow work rules, deal with the public, use judgment, and maintain attention and concentration. Id. They also found that she would have extreme limitation in dealing with work stresses and functioning independently. Id. The form indicates that Jones would have an extreme limitation in understanding, remembering, and carrying out complex job instructions; moderate limitation in understanding, remembering, and carrying out detailed, but not complex job instructions; and slight limitation in understanding, remembering, and carrying out simple job instructions. Id. The form indicates that Jones would have a slight limitation in maintaining personal appearance and moderate limitation in behaving in an emotionally stable manner, relating predictably in social situations, and demonstrating reliability. Id. at 409. The form indicates that Jones has delayed processing, and that she cannot manage benefits in her own best interest. Id.

         The Physical Residual Functional Capacity Questionnaire indicates that Powell and Casey diagnosed Jones with depression and a learning disability, and that Jones's prognosis was fair. Id. at 410. The form described that she had moderate pain in her right shoulder, knee, and ankle, that she experienced daily and with activity since 2006. Id. They identified the clinical findings and objective signs as crepitus to the right knee, right shoulder range of movement, and slowed speech. Id. The form describes that Jones was being treated with daily Lexapro for depression, and another medication, which is illegible. Id.

         The questionnaire stated that her impairments will last at least twelve months, that she is not a malingerer, that emotional factors contribute to her symptoms, and that the psychological conditions of depression and anxiety affect her physical condition. Id. at 411. The form described that her experience of pain and other symptoms were constantly severe enough to interfere with her attention and concentration. Id. The questionnaire stated that Jones is incapable of even a “low stress” job because she is learning disabled and unable to make hard decisions, and that she had pain in her right knee, shoulder, and ankle. Id. The questionnaire stated that Jones could walk less than two city blocks due to joint pain. Id.

         The questionnaire indicated that Jones could only sit thirty minutes at one time and stand for fifteen minutes. Id. at 412. Powell indicated that Jones could sit and stand/walk for less than two hours in an eight-hour day. She also stated that Jones would need to walk around after fifteen minutes, for five minutes at a time. Id. Powell stated that Jones would not need a job that permitted shifting positions at will, but would need to take unscheduled breaks to rest for longer than ten minutes before returning to work. Id.

         Powell estimated that Jones could occasionally lift and carry less than ten pounds occasionally, but never left and carry more than ten pounds. Id. at 413. According to the form, Jones could occasionally twist, rarely stoop, and never crouch, climb ladders, or climb stairs. Id. Although no significant limitations were indicated for repetitive reaching, handling, or fingering, the nurse practitioner limited the use of hands/fingers/arms to a small percentage of an eight-hour workday. Id.

         The form concluded that Jones's impairments were likely to produce “good days” and “bad days, ” and that she would miss more than four days per month from work as a result of the impairments or treatment. Id. at 414. The questionnaire also stated that Jones “is unable to provide care for herself 100%. She requires assistance to complete tasks.” Id.

         Plaintiff also has been diagnosed with a skin condition, granuloma annulare. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is a “skin condition that most commonly consists of raised, reddish or skin-colored bumps (lesions) that form ring patterns, ” usually on the hands and feet. See https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/granuloma-annulare/symptoms-causes/syc-20351319. In most cases, the skin condition is not painful and usually disappears within two years. Id. It is also treatable with a variety of medications, including corticosteroid creams, ointments, ...


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