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Redin v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 7, 2017

AMANDA A. REDIN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commission of Social Security, Defendant.


          Marcia S. Krieger, United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff Amanda A. Redin's appeal from the Commissioner of Social Security's (the “Commissioner”) final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33, and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§1381-83c. Having considered the pleadings and the record, the Court FINDS and CONCLUDES

         I. Jurisdiction

         Ms. Redin filed a claim for disability insurance benefits pursuant to Titles II and XVI in April 2014, asserting that her disability began a month earlier. After her claim was initially denied, Ms. Redin filed a written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”). This request was granted and a hearing was held in June 2016.

         The ALJ's Decision applied the five-step social security disability claim evaluation process: (1) Ms. Redin had not engaged in substantial gainful activity after April 1, 2014; (2) she had the severe impairments of hepatitis C, obesity, asthma, affective disorder, anxiety disorder and learning disorder; (3) she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1; (4) Ms. Redin had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b)[1] with various additional limitations, and that she could not perform her prior work; and (5) Ms. Redin could perform a number of jobs in the national economy including the occupations of small products assembler, electronics worker and cafeteria attendant. Based on this conclusion, the ALJ determined that Ms. Redin was not and had not been under a disability, and she denied Ms. Redin's claim.

         The Appeals Council denied Ms. Redin's request for review of the Decision, making the Decision the Commissioner's final decision for purposes of judicial review. Krauser v. Astrue, 638 F.3d 1324, 1327 (10th Cir. 2011). Ms. Redin's appeal was timely brought, and this Court exercises jurisdiction to review the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         II. Issue Presented

         Ms. Redin asserts three arguments in her appeal. First, she argues that the ALJ improperly gave little weight to the opinions of a consultative psychological examiner and a treating physician's assistant as compared to two consulting agency experts; second, Ms. Redin contends that the ALJ failed to develop the record and consider the ruling and documents from her social security disability application and determination in the late 1990s; and third, she contends that the ALJ erred by failing to determine whether she met the § 12.05 “intellectual disability” Listing requirements at Step 3. Because the last of the arguments is dispositive and requires remand, the Court's analysis focuses exclusively on it.

         III. Relevant Material Facts

         Ms. Redin submitted her application for social security benefits on April 1, 2014, claiming an onset of disability of March 25, 2014.[2] Her application was submitted shortly after her release from state prison, where she had been incarcerated for several years for drug-related offenses. Ms. Redin did not work to any appreciable degree prior or subsequent to her incarceration, and the only evidence concerning any paid work or employment dates back to the early 1990s.

         Among Ms. Redin's severe impairments is a learning disorder. (#22-2, at 41). The record is replete with references by Ms. Redin and various health care providers to her learning disorder. (E.g., #22-2, at 59, 61; #22-3, at 9; #22-6, at 2-5, 7-9, 14; #22-7, at 3-4, 9-10, 16, 24-25, 28-29, 60; #22-8, at 3, 9, 12-13.) In addition, it shows that Ms. Redin was enrolled in special education classes throughout her high school career. Treatment records from North Range Behavioral Health show that Ms. Redin reported that she had been diagnosed with a learning disability and mild mental retardation. (#22-7, at 4, 17, 24.) Those North Range Behavioral Health Record records further reflect that mild mental retardation diagnosis normally involves significantly subaverage intellectual functioning associated with an IQ approximately below 70. (Id. at 10, 25, 29.) The record also contains a report from a consulting psychologist to whom Ms. Redin reported that she has a learning disability and that she had received social security benefits (ostensibly due to that learning disability) from 1995 to 2005. (#22-8, at 9.)

         The initial determination premised on the opinion of the state examiner, Dr. Mark Suyeishi, Psy.D., who evaluated Listings § 12.04 (affective disorders) and § 12.08 (personality disorders), but did not evaluate § 12.05 (intellectual disorders). At the hearing before the ALJ, Ms. Redin's counsel requested consideration of her mental impairments under § 12.05, as well as § 12.02, § 12.04 and § 12.08. Despite the request, the ALJ did not address § 12.05 criteria, focusing instead on only Listings § 12.02 (neurocognitive disorder), § 12.04 (depressive, bipolar and related disorders), and § 12.06 (anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders). With regard to these Listings, the ALJ found that Ms. Redin did not meet the “paragraph B” criteria for any of these Listings because her mental impairments resulted in only mild or moderate rather than marked restrictions or difficulties in her activities of daily living, maintaining social functioning, or maintaining concentration, and she did not experience any episodes of decompensation. The ALJ also found that Ms. Redin did not meet the “paragraph C” criteria for the mental disorder Listings because there was no evidence to support that finding, which generally requires a medically documented history of the mental disorder of at least two years, along with multiple episodes of decompensation or a likelihood of decompensation in the case of an increase in mental demands or change in environment.

         Nowhere does the Decision address Ms. Redin's severe learning disorder or her contentions that she had previously been awarded benefits based on it. The ALJ did not develop the record to determine whether Ms. Redin had previously been awarded disability benefits based on her learning disorder, did not consider the evidence of record in light of Listing § 12.05 and did not explain why she did not do so.

         IV. ...

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