United States District Court, D. Colorado
MARY D. BEARD, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
T. BABCOCK, JUDGE
Mary D. Beard appeals from the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) Commissioner's final decision denying
her application for disability insurance benefits, filed
pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq., and her application for
supplemental security income, filed pursuant to Title XVI of
the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383c.
Jurisdiction is proper under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Oral
argument would not materially assist me in the determination
of this appeal.
consideration of the parties' briefs, as well as the
administrative record, I AFFIRM the Commissioner's final
Statement of the Case
is a 55 year-old woman with a tenth-grade education.
[Administrative Record (“AR”) 192, 197] She seeks
judicial review of SSA's decision denying her
applications for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income. Pl.'s Br., ECF No. 16.
Plaintiff filed her applications for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income in August 2010
alleging that her disability began in June 2010. [AR 161-63]
applications were initially denied in October 2010. [AR
69-72] After Plaintiff's request for review, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) conducted an
evidentiary hearing and issued a written ruling March 2012.
[AR 9-52, 77] In that ruling, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's
application on the basis that she was not disabled because,
considering her age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, Plaintiff could perform jobs that
existed in significant numbers in the national economy. [AR
Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's
administrative request for review of the ALJ's
determination, making SSA's denial final for the purpose
of judicial review. [AR 1-4]; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981,
416.1481. In March 2016, the Tenth Circuit remanded SSA's
decision to deny Plaintiff benefits. [AR 389-97] The Tenth
Circuit found that the ALJ improperly rejected the opinion of
an examining psychologist. [AR 389-93]
November 2016, a different ALJ held another oral hearing. [AR
345-65] Again, Plaintiff's claims were denied. [AR
324-38] The SSA Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request to review, making the ALJ's decision final. [AR
318-21] Plaintiff timely filed her Complaint with this court
seeking review of SSA's final decision. Compl., ECF No.
Relevant Medical History
appeal relates to her mental health. ECF No. 16 at viii. The
relevant medical history includes reports and examinations
from Carlos Rodriguez, PhD, Jeanette Grant, LCSW, CAC, and
Robert Pelc, PhD, ABPP.
Rodriguez first saw Plaintiff in July 2010 when he performed
a clinical interview. [AR 257-58] Dr. Rodriguez noted that
Plaintiff was not on antidepressants at the time and had not
been in mental health counseling. [AR 257] He noted that she
had psychosocial stressors and grieved the loss of her
husband, who died in 2009. [Id.] He stated that
Plaintiff had a “flat affect and depressed demeanor,
” reported a history of depression and anxiety, and
appeared to be functioning significantly below average in her
intellectual capabilities. [Id.] Dr. Rodriguez
diagnosed Plaintiff with major depression and an anxiety
disorder and rule-out diagnoses of borderline intellectual
functioning, mild mental retardation, and academic
developmental disorders. [AR 258] He concluded that Plaintiff
was not capable of managing monthly benefits on her own
behalf, needed further evaluation regarding intellectual
functioning, and referred her to a mental health center for
November 2010, Dr. Rodriguez performed a diagnostic interview
and a mental evaluation. [AR 307-14] Dr. Rodriguez again
noted Plaintiff's flat affect and depressed demeanor and
added that she appeared stressed and tremulous. [AR 307-08]
He wrote that Plaintiff reported difficulty with attention,
concentration and short-term memory, but that she presented
an appropriate attitude in the evaluation. [AR 308] Dr.
Rodriguez added that he established rapport and spoke freely
with Plaintiff and that she did not display any bizarre
behaviors during the evaluation. [Id.]
Rodriguez performed the “Folstein Mini-Mental Status
Examination” and found that Plaintiff was
“oriented to person, place, and time, per her
appropriate responses to orientation type questions.”
[AR 308] She could recall three of three objects immediately
and one of the three objects after five minutes,
“indicating the presence of deficits in short-term
auditory memory.” [Id.] She had “great
difficulty in performing serial seven subtractions,
indicating the presence of deficits in attention and
calculation abilities.” [Id.] She had
“difficulty in recalling the names of five western
states, indicating the presence of deficits in long-term
memory for overlearned environmental information, ” but
could name simple objects, such as a watch and a pen.
[Id.] She could follow two steps of a three-step
command, “indicating the presence of deficits in the
ability to process auditory information.”
[Id.] Further, her “responses to comprehension
type questions indicate the presence of deficits in basic
social judgement.” [Id.] Dr. Rodriguez
suggested the presence of a neurocognitive impairment and
found Plaintiff to have marked or extreme mental limitations
in his mental capacity evaluation. [AR 308, 313-14]
saw Dr. Rodriguez once per year between 2012 and 2016. [AR
683- 87] His diagnoses stayed similar throughout this time.
[Id.] In September 2016, Dr. Rodriguez performed
another psycho-diagnostic interview. [AR 836] Dr.
Rodriguez's observations generally paralleled those of
his earlier examinations. He found Plaintiff to be teary-eyed
with a flat affect and a depressed demeanor. [AR 837] He
found that “her thoughts and her speech content do not
reflect the presence of flight of ideas, loose associations,
or confusion” and were “goal directed, coherent,
and do not display the presence of hallucinations, delusions,
or other psychotic manifestations.” [Id.]
performed a mental status examination, where he noted that
Plaintiff was oriented to person, place, and time.
[Id.] She could recall three-of-three objects
immediately, but only two-of-three after five minutes.
[Id.] Plaintiff was unable to perform serial seven
subtractions, could name five western states, and was
deficient in basic social judgment and her abstraction
ability. [Id.] Dr. Rodriguez noted that
Plaintiff's responses ...