Patti M. Willard v. Larry G. Massanari ( 2001 )

  •                     United States Court of Appeals
                              FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
                                       No. 01-2460
    Patti M. Willard,                   *
                 Appellant,             *
                                        * Appeal from the United States
          v.                            * District Court for the
                                        * Western District of Missouri.
    Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Commissioner   *
    of Social Security,                 *     [UNPUBLISHED]
                 Appellee.              *
                             Submitted: November 16, 2001
                                 Filed: December 6, 2001
    Before BOWMAN, BRIGHT, and LOKEN, Circuit Judges.
          Patti M. Willard appeals the District Court’s2 order affirming the
    Commissioner’s denial of disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
    income. In her January 1997 applications, Willard alleged disability since March
    1993 from dysthymic (depressed mood) and personality disorders, and epilepsy. At
           Jo Anne B. Barnhart is substituted for former Commissioner of Social Security
    Larry G. Massanari as appellee in this action pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 43(c).
           The Honorable Gary A. Fenner, United States District Judge for the Western
    District of Missouri.
    an administrative hearing, a vocational expert (VE) testified in response to a
    hypothetical posed by the administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ found Willard
    not disabled based on the VE’s identification of certain jobs the hypothetical claimant
    could perform. Having carefully reviewed the record, we affirm.
           Willard first argues that the ALJ improperly discredited her subjective mental
    complaints, pointing to evidence showing that she had problems even in a sheltered
    work environment, her minimal daily activities did not suggest she was able to work,
    and she did not have contact even with her family. We disagree. After properly
    citing the factors in Polaski v. Heckler, 
    739 F.2d 1320
    , 1322 (8th Cir. 1984), the ALJ
    noted multiple inconsistencies in the record, including Willard’s ability to live
    independently and the lack of physicians’ opinions that Willard was totally disabled.
    See Dunahoo v. Apfel, 
    241 F.3d 1033
    , 1038 (8th Cir. 2001) (stating that if ALJ
    discredits claimant and gives good reason, this court will defer to ALJ's judgment
    even if every Polaski factor is not discussed in depth). We find reasonable the ALJ’s
    conclusion that Willard’s alleged inability to work with others was not disabling. She
    held her last rehabilitation-program job, which required handling phone calls, for ten
    months, and the program coordinator indicated that Willard could likely succeed in
    a job requiring less public contact. Cf. Gowell v. Apfel, 
    242 F.3d 793
    , 796 (8th Cir.
    2001) (holding substantial evidence supported rejecting subjective complaints of pain
    where evidence indicated pain was not severe enough to be considered disabling).
    Similarly, neither her lack of contact with her family (and alleged lack of friends), nor
    her daily activities of caring for her personal needs, using the bus to get around,
    volunteering at church, and engaging in hobbies at home, support a finding of a
    totally disabling mental impairment. Cf. Hutton v. Apfel, 
    175 F.3d 651
    , 654-55 (8th
    Cir. 1999) (holding ALJ's rejection of claimant's application supported by substantial
    evidence where daily activities—making breakfast, washing dishes and clothes,
    visiting friends, watching television, and driving—were inconsistent with claim of
    total disability). Willard’s contention that the ALJ failed to consider and discuss the
    testimony of her caseworker is belied by the record.
            In her remaining arguments, Willard essentially challenges the ALJ’s mental
    residual functional capacity (RFC) findings, and contends that the ALJ’s hypothetical
    to the VE was incomplete. However, the ALJ’s RFC findings not only included
    limitations specifically addressing Willard’s problems in relating to others, but they
    actually were more restrictive than the RFC findings of the Social Security
    Administration psychologist upon whose opinion Willard relies except, unlike the
    psychologist, the ALJ found no deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace—a
    finding that is supported by the record. Willard contends that the ALJ’s mental RFC
    findings (and thus his hypothetical) should have included certain added limitations,
    but she bases this contention on the opinions of certain evaluators whose opinions are
    either conclusory or internally inconsistent. Cf. Johnson v. Chater, 
    87 F.3d 1015
    1018 (8th Cir. 1996) (according less deference where treating physician’s opinion is
    itself inconsistent); Chamberlain v. Shalala, 
    47 F.3d 1489
    , 1494 (8th Cir. 1995)
    (giving limited weight to treating physician’s conclusory opinion). Willard also
    points to two global-assessment-of-functioning3 ratings of 50, but the professionals
    issuing those findings also concluded that Willard’s ratings for the previous year were
    higher. One evaluator, who had both interviewed and tested Willard, assessed a
    rating of 65. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1509, 416.909 (2001) (impairment must last for
    continuous period of at least twelve months). While we recognize, as Willard points
    out, that she was terminated from a rehabilitation-program job, her inability to
    perform that job does not demonstrate her inability to perform a job based on the
    ALJ’s RFC findings. Thus, we find that the ALJ’s mental RFC findings were proper,
    see Dunahoo, 241 F.3d at 1039 (explaining that RFC must be based on "all relevant
    evidence, including medical records, physician’s opinions, and claimant’s description
    of her limitations"), and that the hypothetical was sufficient, see Roberts v. Apfel, 
    222 F.3d 466
    , 471 (8th Cir. 2000).
          See American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
    Mental Disorders 34 (4th ed., text rev. 2000).
            Although there is evidence in the record supporting Willard’s allegedly
    disabling mental impairments, we review to determine whether the ALJ’s decision is
    supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See id. at 468
    (substantial evidence "is enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to
    support the Commissioner’s conclusion"). We also note that the Commissioner
    properly obtained psychological consultations due to the absence of mental-health
    treatment records, cf. Freeman v. Apfel, 
    208 F.3d 687
    , 692 (8th Cir. 2000) (noting
    that it is reversible error to fail to order consultative examination when it is necessary
    for informed decision); and properly followed the special procedures for evaluating
    mental impairments, see Russell v. Sullivan, 
    950 F.2d 542
    , 545 (8th Cir. 1991)
    (upholding ALJ's conclusion that impairment was not disabling where ALJ analyzed
    claimant’s mental impairment under regulations’ special procedure and ample
    evidence supported ALJ’s findings).
          Accordingly, we affirm.
    BRIGHT, Circuit Judge, dissenting.
          I respectfully dissent.
           Upon examination of the record, I am convinced that Ms. Willard is entitled to
    benefits. Ms. Willard previously qualified for benefits from 1986-1993. She
    apparently lost benefits when she failed to respond to Social Security Administration
           In her present request for benefits, the administrative law judge determined that
    Ms. Willard had the residual functional capacity to perform light duty jobs including
    jobs such as a bench assembler, hand packager, or a laundry folder. However, there
    is no evidence in the record that Ms. Willard ever held such positions, or for that
    matter, has ever held any position in the workforce other than in a sheltered workshop
    or a special employment program. For these reasons, I believe Ms. Willard is entitled
    to benefits.
          A true copy.
                         CLERK, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, EIGHTH CIRCUIT.