United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER AFFIRMING THE
COMMISSIONER'S FINAL DECISION
KOHLER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Social Security disability appeal is before the Court
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to
review the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security. Plaintiff Robert Parker seeks review of the
administrative law judge (ALJ) decision denying his claim for
supplemental security income (SSI) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act. After reviewing the record and
considering the parties' positions at oral argument, the
Court will affirm the Commissioner's final decision
denying Mr. Parker's claim for SSI.
Parker was 27 years old when he applied for SSI in January
2015. He claimed he was disabled due to bipolar
disorder, intellectual disability, anxiety disorder, and
2015, consultative psychologist Dr. Hardy observed that Mr.
Parker was friendly and cooperative, “but had a
significant rigidity in his interpersonal style” and
would “offer odd comments at times.” Mr.
Parker's short-term and long-term memory was adequate,
and he could remember and recite three steps of a four-step
task that was presented verbally. Thereafter, State agency
psychological consultants Dr. Gore and Dr. Cherry reviewed
the record to evaluate Mr. Parker's mental abilities.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.913a(b)(1) (such
“consultants are highly qualified and experts in Social
Security disability evaluation.”) They opined that Mr.
Parker could follow rules; remember simple one- or two-step
instructions that were detailed or complex; attend to simple,
repetitive tasks; make simple work-related decisions; respond
to minor changes in the work routine; make simple plans; set
simple goals; and work in the presence of others and accept
supervision and feedback; but should not work with the public
or in close coordination with others.
Parker saw physician assistant Dalyn Steed in early 2016. At
his first visit, he had an anxious and flat affect, minimal
eye contact, unkempt grooming, and abnormal judgment and
insight. After a medication adjustment, he reported dramatic
improvement-he did not feel down, depressed, or hopeless. He
was pleasant, with an appropriate mood and affect.
Parker saw advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) Brett
Robbins in late 2016. Mr. Robbins's examination findings
were entirely normal. Mr. Robbins continued to adjust Mr.
Parker's mental health medications, and his mental
examination findings remained normal through early 2017.
Parker saw therapist Mr. Pryor between December 2016 and
April 2017. At his initial visit, he appeared a bit nervous,
anxious, and fidgety, but had a normal affect, normal memory,
normal insight, normal judgment, and normal temperament. In
March 2017, Mr. Pryor noted that Mr. Parker's goal was to
be independent, “yet he [did not] want to work.”
The next month, Mr. Parker told his therapist that he did not
“want to work because he [did not] want the government
taking his money to pay off his studen[t] loans.” In
April 2017, Mr. Parker underwent a psychological evaluation
with Dr. Barney. He was neatly groomed, pleasant, and
cooperative. He had normal speech, linear and goal-directed
thoughts, and “no obvious problems with
distractibility.” His “thinking was clear, [and]
his attention and concentration were
unremarkable”-“[h]e appeared able to focus on the
tasks at hand for the entire 3 ½ hour session.”
Dr. Barney noted that Mr. Parker “seemed to have some
social quirks and oddities, ” such as laughing at
unexpected times and reacting excessively-he diagnosed autism
spectrum disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. He
observed that Mr. Parker “appear[ed] to have no desire
to work” and “seem[ed] quite content”
living with his mother and sister.
Parker began seeing a new therapist, Roger Lister, in May
2017. When Mr. Lister asked Mr. Parker what kept him from
working, he “stated that he [was] worried that the
government will take $350 a month from him due to past due
student loans.” In September, he was doing better. But
in November, Mr. Lister opined that Mr. Parker experienced
marked impairment in most areas of workplace mental
functioning; would be off task 20% or more of a workday;
would miss four days or more per month; and would be less
than 50% as efficient as an average worker.
November 2017 hearing before the ALJ, Mr. Parker testified
that he could not work because he had “trouble being
around people” and “often g[o]t confused.”
He claimed that he could not “do anything for more than
just a few minutes of time before having to either sit down,
stand up, or do something that t[ook] [his] attention
away.” Psychologist Dr. Hatch examined Mr. Parker at
the ALJ's request in December 2017. Mr. Parker told Dr.
Hatch that he spent most or all of his time working on
computers or playing games on them-he said he spent 12 to 15
hours each day playing video games. Dr. Hatch's
examination findings were mixed: Mr. Parker was
temperamental, irritable, “a bit naïve, ”
and disheveled; displayed inconsistent eye contact; and
struggled to recall information. Yet he was also very
cooperative, kept up with the pace of the assessment, and
could carry out requests and comprehend simple and somewhat
more complex verbal instructions.
followed the Commissioner's five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4). As relevant here, the ALJ found that Mr.
Parker had impairments that qualified as “severe”
under the agency's regulations (bipolar disorder, anxiety
disorder, and autism spectrum disorder), but that those
impairments did not meet or medically equal a per se
disabling impairment from 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P,
appendix 1 (the listings). Between steps three and four, the
ALJ found that Mr. Parker had the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform work at all exertional levels, but
with non-exertional limitations to “simple tasks
typical of unskilled occupations with no production rate pace
work, ” “only occasional interaction with
coworkers[, ] and no interaction with the public.” At
step five, the ALJ found-consistent with a vocational
expert's testimony-that this RFC would allow Mr. Parker
to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the
national economy). The ALJ thus found at step five that Mr.
Parker was not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §
ARGUMENTS ON APPEAL
appeal, Mr. Parker argues that the ALJ did not provide good
reasons to discount the opinion of his therapist, Mr. Lister;
did not sufficiently consider the opinions of examining
psychologist Dr. Hatch; made inconsistent findings at step
three and within the RFC assessment; did not sufficiently
address his difficulty with social interaction; and should
not have discounted his reported symptoms based on his
statement that he did not want to work. The Court ultimately
finds these arguments unpersuasive.