United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON JUDICIAL REVIEW
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
Tanya S. (“Claimant”), pro se, requests
judicial review of the final decision of the Deputy
Commissioner for Operations of the Social Security
Administration (the “Deputy Commissioner”),
denying her applications for Social Security Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“the Act”), and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
For the following reasons, the Court AFFIRMS
the decision of the Deputy Commissioner.
April 2014, Claimant filed applications for DIB and SSI,
alleging a disability onset date of September 24, 2011. Her
claims were initially denied on July 29, 2014, and again upon
reconsideration on September 5, 2014. Claimant filed a
written request for a hearing on October 21, 2014. On
February 23, 2016 a hearing was held before Administrative
Law Judge Kimberly Sorg-Graves (the “ALJ”).
Claimant appeared at the hearing pro se with her
father, who testified on her behalf. On August 26, 2016, the
ALJ denied Claimant's applications for DIB and SSI.
Claimant requested review of the decision by the Appeals
Council, which affirmed the ALJ's denial of benefits on
June 13, 2017. On July 26, 2017, Claimant filed this action
for judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
time of her alleged disability onset date in September 2011,
Claimant was 35 years old. She was home-schooled from third
through twelfth grade and received her GED. Prior to the
onset of her disability, Claimant's last employment was
providing social services to special needs adults, but she
was terminated in late 2011. She alleges her disability began
in September 2011.
suffers from depression and has been treated for bipolar
disorder. She has great difficulty reading, and of the things
she can read, she often has trouble understanding them. In
late 2011, the stresses of her job became too much for her,
and she was disruptive to a patient/ client at work.
(Filing No. 12-7 at 37.) Police forcefully escorted
Claimant to Midtown Mental Health Services, where a health
professional evaluated her and prescribed her Depakote for
bipolar disorder. Id. On follow-up she was feeling
better, and the physician assistant who treated her continued
her on Depakote. Id. at 36-37. However, she lost her
job following the incident. (Filing No. 12-2 at
Subsequent Medical Evaluations
2012, psychologist Patsy Donn (“Dr. Donn”)
evaluated Claimant to determine her intelligence and ability
to function. (Filing No. 12-7 at 50-59.) Claimant
took three tests at this evaluation, the Stanford Binet
Intelligence Scales - Fifth Edition, the Woodcock-Johnson
III, Tests of Achievement, and the 16 PF Fifth Edition.
Id. She obtained a full-scale IQ score of 78, which
is in the borderline range. Id. at 52. Her knowledge
score was in the third percentile, indicating that her
accumulated fund of knowledge was weak. Id. She also
had weak numerical problem solving and visual spacing
processing, but average skills in inductive and deductive
reasoning and working memory. Id. Her written
expression score was low average (late third grade), while
all other academic skills were borderline. Id. at
52-54. Her math fluency was what was expected of beginning
fifth graders; her writing fluency was at the end of fourth
grade level; and her reading fluency was at the beginning of
fourth grade level. Id. at 53.
Donn diagnosed Claimant with recurrent major depressive
disorder and borderline intellectual functioning.
Id. at 55. She suggested further psychiatric
evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the medication
Claimant was taking at that time, and thought that effective
treatment for Claimant would involve therapy to address
coping skills and other issues and possible accommodations in
the work setting that could include written instructions
being left on her voicemail, a co-worker who could read any
important information for her, and other measures that would
reduce her need to read. Id. Dr. Donn noted that
Claimant wanted to be a beautician. Id. To become a
beautician, Dr. Donn believed Claimant would need support in
completing her training, which included effective treatment
of depression. Id.
2014, Claimant was evaluated by consulting psychologist Paul
Schneider (“Dr. Schneider”). (Filing No. 12-7
at 45-49.) Dr. Schneider reported Claimant's
“calculations and fund of knowledge were poor”,
but her concentration level was neither a relative strength
nor weakness. Id. at 45-46. Her verbal comprehension
and judgment were somewhat impaired. Id. at 46. She
indicated that her mood was fine, and Dr. Schneider observed
that it seemed normal and her thought processes were logical
and sequential. Id. Dr. Schneider's impression
was that Claimant had borderline intellectual functioning and
was a slow learner, both of which would affect her ability to
work. Id. at 45-46. He diagnosed her with adjustment
disorder, with mixed anxiety and depressed mood, by history,
and borderline intellectual functioning. Id. at 47.
Schneider then administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence
Scale - IV (WAIS-IV). Id. at 48. This test scored
Claimant's IQ at 70, placing her toward the extreme end
of the borderline range but conforming to Dr. Schneider's
observations of her. Id. at 47. He thought that
although Claimant's score fell on the cusp of the
borderline range and mild cognitive disability, the diagnosis
of borderline intellectual functioning was more consistent
with her level of adaptive functioning; thus, his diagnosis
remained unchanged. Id. at 48.
in July 2014, Claimant was evaluated by state agency
reviewing psychologist Stacia Hill, Ph.D. (“Dr.
Hill”). (Filing No. 12-3 at 5.) Dr. Hill
concluded Claimant was mildly limited in activities of daily
living and social functioning and moderately limited in
concentration, persistence, and pace. Id. at 5-6.
She believed Claimant could understand, remember, and carry
out simple tasks, relate on at least a superficial and
ongoing basis with supervisors and co-workers, attend to
tasks for a sufficient amount of time to complete them, and
manage the stresses involved with simple work. Id.
at 8. In September 2014, Joelle J. Larsen, Ph.D. affirmed Dr.